The New York Times

ARTS BRIEFING 15 March 2004

MOZART BY ITS RIGHTFUL NAME A Mozart mystery has been solved at last. So says the musicologist Michael Lorenz, an expert on the Viennese music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the proof of the pudding will be served on Thursday in Vienna when the pianist Robert Levin sits down to join Sir Roger Norrington and the Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart to play Mozart's piano concerto in E-flat (K. 271) for the first time under its proper name. For more than a century, Dr. Lorenz says, the identity of the French pianist for whom the young Mozart, above, wrote the piece has baffled Mozart scholars, and the work has been known as the "Jeunehomme" Concerto. Dr. Lorenz says that jeune homme, or young man, a reference to Mozart, was the name given to it by a pair of French scholars in a 1912 biography because they couldn't identify the woman for whom he actually wrote it. After that, he says, scholars refrained from further research. Mozart, in a letter to his father, Leopold, after finishing the concerto in January 1777, referred to the pianist as "jenomy," and Leopold referred to her as "Madame genomai." Dr. Lorenz says the mystery woman was actually Victoire Jenamy, a daughter of Jean George Noverre, a famous dancer who was one of Mozart's best friends. Dr. Lorenz says a bit of research in the City Archive of Vienna last year established that Victoire was an excellent pianist, and it was she who commissioned the concerto in Vienna in 1776. Adieu Jeunehomme. Enter, for the first time, the "Jenamy" Concerto. 


Newsletter of the American Mozart Society, vol. IX (2005), Nr. 1, pp. 1-3.


Michael Lorenz

[Editor's Note:  In 2003 the Viennese musicologist Michael Lorenz discovered the identity of the pianist for whom Mozart wrote his Concerto in E flat, K. 271. That discovery allowed him to correct a venerable misnomer,  to introduce to students of eighteenth-century music a hitherto unknown female keyboard virtuoso, and to shed new light on one of Mozart's most beloved concertos. On 18 March 2004, in Vienna's Konzerthaus, Robert Levin, accompanied by the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart under the direction of Roger Norrington, performed K. 271 under its proper name for the first time. Dr. Lorenz wrote a program note to mark the occasion, which (in his own translation) he has kindly allowed us to publish here. A detailed article, "»Mademoiselle Jeunehomme« Zur Lösung eines Mozart-Rätsels" based on the complete results of his research has been published in Mozart Experiment Aufklärung, (Essays for the Mozart Exhibition 2006) Da Ponte Institut, Vienna 2006, pp. 423-29.]


"Jeunehomme. Title sometimes given to Mozart's Piano Concerto in E flat K 271 after the French pianist supposed to have first performed it; nothing is known of her and she may never have existed."

(The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music, 1994)

If we tried to describe briefly the significance of Mozart's Piano Concerto in E flat, K. 271, we could without exaggeration call it a musical wonder and a monument of musical originality. In its mastery of orchestration and its stupendous innovations it has no predecessor. It is Mozart’s first really significant composition, "his Eroica" (as Alfred Einstein put it), "one of Mozart's monumental works which he never surpassed". By breaking through conventions in an unparallelled creative outburst, a sort of evolutionary leap forward, Mozart reached the level of craftsmanship that distinguishes the piano concertos of his Viennese years. Surprising formal innovations are combined with boundless melodic exuberance: the astonishing entry of the soloist in the second measure (an effect that Mozart was never to repeat), several themes developed by means of dramatic tension and balanced dialogue between piano and orchestra combined with operatic effects and a tendency to the cantabile that extends to every movement. For instance, the long trill at the second, "real" entry of the piano as a kind of messa di voce, a second theme whose melodic inversion will return years later as Cherubino’s "Non so piu," and, among other refinements, many pseudo-recitative passages in the solo part.

            The second movement, an Andantino with muted strings, is Mozart’s first concerto movement in a minor key. It culminates in an operatic scene that seems to be inspired by Gluck, in which Mozart turns the piano into a tragic heroine, making her sing the most beautiful vocal embellishments. The melody in the Rondo that resembles Monostatos’s aria "Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden" encourages us to imagine the virtuosity of the pianist for whom this concerto was written. Even at this point Mozart is not finished with surprising ideas. After a cadenza there follows a slow Minuet in the sub-dominant, A flat, which elegantly ennobles the cheerful mood of the finale. This very effective way of adding musical weight to a final movement will reappear in the piano concertos K. 415 and K. 482.

            K. 271 bears another kind of significance. Its name "Jeunehomme Concerto", to which audiences grew accustomed during the twentieth century,  is a product of pure fantasy and of wilful invention. It is a musical nickname created by Mozart scholarship in a fit of total blindness. For the last  ninety-two years this famous concerto has been performed under a wrong name.

            How did this come about? Mozart dated the manuscript "Gennaio 1777" and, in a letter to his father of 11 September 1778,  he enumerated his most recent  piano concertos in  reverse chronological order: "I will give the three concertos, the one for the jenomy [K. 271], litzau [K. 246] and the one in B flat  [K. 238] to the engraver for cash". The German makes clear that jenomy was female. She evidently passed through Salzburg during the winter of 1776-77. Mozart met her again in Paris in 1778. He planned to collaborate with  the dancer  and choreographer Jean Georges Noverre, whom he had already met in Vienna in 1773, on a ballet production: "Noverre, with whom I have dinner whenever I like, has promised to take it upon himself and he also came up with the idea. I think it will be Alexandre and Roxane. Mad:me jenomè is here as well." To which Leopold Mozart, who must have been personally acquainted with the lady in question, replied: "Give our regards to B[aron] von grimm, to Mr: and Md:me Noverre and to Md:me genomai." This is all that was known until recently about the mysterious woman for whom Mozart wrote his first significant piano concerto.

            In the nineteenth century this information gap posed no problem for scholars. Accepting Mozart’s spelling without prejudice, Otto Jahn in his 1856 Mozart biography called the piece "a piano concerto for Jenomy". But in Théodor Wyzewa and Georges de Saint-Foix’s voluminous study W.-A. Mozart: Sa vie musicale et son oeuvre, published in 1912, fiction and truth mingled awkwardly. Based on the unfounded assumption that with "Jenomy" Mozart had simply italianized a name that had originally been French, Wyzewa and Saint-Foix came up with "one of the most celebrated virtuosos of her time" and since one of their favorite names for Mozart was "jeune homme" (young man) they presented this person as "Mademoiselle Jeunehomme".

            This was enough to give birth to a legend. The first uncritical Mozart scholar to whom the name appealed was Arthur Schurig, who wrote in 1913 of "Miss Jeunehomme, who in those days was an acclaimed pianist." For the last ninety-two years one author has copied this information from another. The Neue Mozart-Ausgabe tells us that “Mozart had summoned up his utmost compositional skills to satisfy the much-praised piano virtuoso Jeunehomme” and in the recent Mozart literature we even see Mozart being accused of failing in French pronunciation: "He [Mozart] did refer to the concerto as 'the one for the Jeunehomme woman' (das für die jenomy [sic]); his phonetic spelling of French lays open how wretchedly he pronounced it." (Robert W. Gutman, Mozart A Cultural Biography, 1999).

            To find out the truth and to solve an "unsolvable problem" we only need rely on Mozart’s impeccable ear. We have to push aside all the Jeunehomme nonsense and go back to archival sources.

            Mozart’s "Madame Jenomy" was the eldest child of Jean Georges Noverre. She was born on 2 January 1749 in Strasbourg, where her father had been employed as a dancing master since October 1747, and was baptized "Louise Victoire" on the same day (after her godfather Louis Henri Ballard and her godmother Victoire de Fresney Brun). When her father was hired by the Viennese court she came to Vienna in Summer 1767, and on 11 September 1768 she married the wealthy merchant Joseph Jenamy (1747 – 1819) who belonged to a distinguished family that had come to Vienna from Savoy at the beginning of the  eighteenth century. Baron von Stegnern, Noverre’s landlord at the house Franziskanerplatz 1, and Leopold Mozart’s friend the playwright Franz Heufeld stood witness to the wedding in St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

            There is no proof that Mozart met Noverre and his daughter during his stay in Vienna in 1768, but when he befriended the famous dancer five years later he must have made the acquaintance of Victoire Jenamy, who demonstrated her pianistic abilities shortly before Mozart's arrival. On the occasion of a ball given at the Kärntnertortheater on 17 February 1773 for the benefit of her father she gave a public performance. The “Realzeitung” wrote: "His [Noverre’s] daughter played a concerto on the Clavier with much artistry and ease". There is no evidence however to indicate that Jenamy was ever a professional pianist.

            When she arrived in Salzburg in late 1776 or early 1777 on her way from Vienna to her father in Paris, Mozart took the opportunity to present himself among the music lovers in Noverre’s circle with a compositional calling card. In the light of recent research the slow Minuet in the third movement of K. 271 may even seen as an allusion to Noverre the dancer. In April 1778 Mozart met Jenamy again in her father’s home in Paris ("Mad:me jenomè is here as well"). It has not  yet been possible to prove that she ever returned to Vienna. She died childless on 5 September 1812. The place of her death was identified in 2007. Further details from her biography will be presented in a future publication.

The American premiere of K. 271 under its proper name took place on 3 March 2005 in Philadelphia:



As is also the case with the numbering of Mozart's symphonies, those of his piano concertos have no authority with the composer and were a later 19th-century invention. The number 9 for the Concerto in E-flat obscures the fact that his first seven concertos were arrangements of piano sonatas by C.P.E. Bach, J.C. Bach, and lesser lights, possibly an assignment given to the pre-teen composer by his father, Leopold. The Concerto in D major, K. 175, is Mozart's first independent piano concerto, which he wrote at age 17. Three more followed in early 1776 (K. 238, 242, 246), before he wrote his "Ninth" in Salzburg in January 1777, the month of his 21st birthday. It has long been recognized as his first great piano concerto, and an effort that Mozart would not surpass until he moved to Vienna some four years later.

Countless beloved pieces of so-called classical music have a nickname, often one not given by the composer. Mozart would have no idea what the "Jupiter" Symphony is, Beethoven the "Emperor" Concerto or "Moonlight" Sonata, or Schubert the "Unfinished" Symphony. The names sometimes come from savvy publishers who know they can improve sales, or from impresarios, critics, or performers. The case of the Concerto we hear today is particularly interesting, and only recently explained. Little is known of the genesis or first performance of the E-flat Concerto. Twentieth-century accounts usually stated that Mozart composed it for a French keyboard virtuoso named Mademoiselle Jeunehomme, who visited Salzburg in the winter of 1777. Nothing else was known, not even the woman's first name.

Last year, the Viennese musicologist Michael Lorenz, a specialist in the music of Mozart's and Schubert's time and a brilliant archival detective, figured out the mystery. The nickname was coined by the French scholars Théodore de Wyzewa and Georges de Saint-Foix in their classic early-20th-century study of the composer. As Lorenz explains, "Since one of their favorite names for Mozart was 'jeune homme' (young man), they presented this person as 'Mademoiselle Jeunehomme.'"

In a September 1778 letter Mozart wrote to his father, he referred to three recent concertos, "one for the jenomy [K. 271], litzau [K. 246], and one in B-flat [K. 238]" that he was selling to a publisher. Leopold later called the first pianist "Madame genomai." (Spellings were often variable and phonetic at the time.) Lorenz has identified her as Victoire Jenamy, born in Strasbourg in 1749 and married to a rich merchant, Joseph Jenamy, in 1768. Victoire was the daughter of the celebrated dancer and choreographer Jean Georges Noverre (1727-1810), who was a good friend of Mozart's. He had choreographed a 1772 Milan production of Mozart's opera Lucio Silla and later commissioned the ballet Les Petits Riens for Paris. Although we still know little about Victoire Jenamy—she does not appear to have been a professional musician, though clearly Mozart admired her playing—Mozart's first great piano concerto can now rightly be called by its proper name: "Jenamy."

When Mozart performed his own concertos, he would usually improvise cadenzas—the flashy solo sections that occur near the end of some movements—and therefore had no need to write them down. But because the Concerto we hear today was written for someone else, Mozart felt called upon to provide them. He apparently retained affection for the piece as he was still playing it years later in Vienna; it may have been the first of his concertos to be published. (The lack of distinguishing numbers or keys often makes it difficult to know exactly which of so many possible works are referred to in letters, reviews, advertisements, and programs—which usually just called a piece "new.")

The Concerto uses a modest orchestra of two oboes, two horns, and strings. The manuscript specifies harpsichord, still in common use at the time even as the piano was replacing it; nonetheless Mozart probably performed it most often on the piano. The opening of the piece is particularly noteworthy for the immediate presence of the keyboard in answer to a short orchestral fanfare. Not until Beethoven's last two piano concertos would the soloist make such an early appearance. Equally unexpected is that within the breathless final movement rondo Mozart inserts a minuet section, which momentarily slows the pace. (Lorenz speculates that this unusual feature might have been "an allusion to Noverre the dancer.") Even at such a young age Mozart was breaking with traditions at the same time as he sought to perpetuate them.

Christopher H. Gibbs

Victoire Noverre

Donnerstag, 18. März 2004, 19.30 Uhr
Wien, Konzerthaus, Großer Saal

  • Programm 18. März 2004:
    • James Barrett: "Conversation with Chet" for Symphony Orchestra and solo Trumpet
    • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Konzert für Klavier und Orchester Es-dur KV 271 (Jenamy-Konzert)
    • Peter Tschaikowsky: Sinfonie Nr. 6 h-moll op. 74 (Pathétique)
Robert Levin, Klavier

Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR
Leitung: Roger Norrington


Am 16. März 2004 feiert Sir Roger Norrington - Chefdirigent des Radio-Sinfonieorchesters Stuttgart seit 1998 - seinen siebzigsten Geburtstag. Der Südwestrundfunk und sein RSO nehmen dies zum Anlass, Sir Rogers nachhaltiges musikalisches Wirken mit einer Reihe von Veranstaltungen, Produktionen und Sendungen zu würdigen. Sir Roger Norrington möchte seine März-Konzerte mit dem RSO jedoch keinesfalls als "Geburtstagskonzerte" missverstanden wissen. Für ihn haben die zahlreichen gemeinsamen Auftritte mit dem RSO Stuttgart in den vergangenen und den kommenden Jahren denselben Stellenwert wie die sechs Konzerte in unmittelbarer zeitlicher Nähe zu seinem Geburtstag. Die März-Programme zeigen dabei einmal mehr auf eindrucksvolle Weise Norringtons Freude an Entdeckungen neuer und (scheinbar) vertrauter Kompositionen.

Die Komposition "Conversation with Chet" des jungen englischen Komponisten James Barrett entstand als Auftragswerk des SWR für Sir Roger Norrington und das RSO Stuttgart und erlebt im Rahmen des siebenten Abonnementkonzerts ihre Uraufführung. Parallel zu diesen Konzerten in der Stuttgarter Liederhalle (10. bis 12. März 2004) produziert der SWR eine Fernseh-Sendung, in der Sir Roger Norrington anhand von kommentierten Musikbeispielen seine Interpretation der Sinfonie Nr. 6 ("Pathétique") von Peter Tschaikowsky vorstellt.

Dem Wiener Musikwissenschaftler Dr. Michael Lorenz gelang im vergangenen Jahr die Lösung eines der ältesten Rätsel in Mozarts Biographie: Er identifizierte die Widmungsträgerin von Mozarts berühmtem Klavierkonzert Es-Dur KV 271, das im Konzertgebrauch den Namen "Jeunehomme" trägt. "Madame Jenomy" war das älteste Kind des berühmten Tänzers Jean-Georges Noverre, der als Ballettmeister in Wien tätig war. Die detaillierten Forschungs-Ergebnisse wird Dr. Lorenz in der Zeitschrift Early Music veröffentlichen. Der profilierte Mozart-Interpret Robert Levin, einer der von Sir Roger Norrington bevorzugten Klavier-Partner, ist Solist dieser "Erstaufführung" am 18. März.

All rights reserved. No part of the publication may be reproduced or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise without the prior permission of the author. © 2004 Dr. Michael Lorenz