Music professor sheds light on Mozart mystery


Professor Martin Jarvis … Startling discovery regarding Mozart’s sister.

Professor Martin Jarvis … Startling discovery regarding Mozart’s sister.

A Charles Darwin University academic believes he has helped solve a 250-year-old classical music mystery involving the sister of genius composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Professor Martin Jarvis and a team of forensic analysts say they have uncovered the musical handwriting of Marie Anne Mozart, elder sibling of her famous brother.

“We have discovered the piece of handwriting DNA, so to speak, that has enabled us for the first time in about 250 years to pinpoint Marie Anne Mozart’s music handwriting,” Professor Jarvis said.

“This will give Mozart scholars a new lens through which to look at other manuscripts.”

Professor Jarvis has led the search with the help of East Tennessee State University Affiliate Professor Heidi Harralson and Victoria Police Chief Forensic Scientist Dr Bryan Found.

“We have spent five years searching hundreds of letters, facsimile manuscripts and associated documents held in various museums and collections in Europe,” he said.

“Great work carried out by researchers associated with the Mozarteum in Salzburg allowed us to view the family letters through an online portal, instead of having to go to Salzburg, and to many other places where some of the letters are held in private collections.

“And a few months ago we finally discovered what we had been looking for.”

Professor Jarvis said the discovery supported the proposition that Marie Anne may have composed pieces of music for her brother Wolfgang Amadeus to play when he was four or five years old.

“We will present evidence tomorrow (Tuesday September 8) at the European Academy of the Forensic Sciences conference in Prague, one of Europe’s most renowned ‘Mozart cities’.”

Professor Jarvis said scholars knew that Marie Anne had composed music because letters between Wolfgang Amadeus and his sister said as much.

“But it seemed odd that we only had compositions by Amadeus,” he said.

“Part of the difficulty related to the times; being female in the 18th Century meant it was highly unlikely Marie Anne was ever going to put her name on anything.

“Amadeus’ father Leopold also would have had strong financial incentives to ensure his son, rather than his daughter, was recognised for his genius.

“It was this mysterious silence around the musical voice of Marie Anne that prompted our research,” he said.

“We hope to find more.”

It is Professor Jarvis’s second startling discovery of this nature in the past decade. In 2006 he published research suggesting the Six Cello Suites were more likely to have been composed by Anna Magdalena Bach, second wife of Johannes Sebastian Bach, the traditionally accepted author of the works.

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