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1750 - 1791

Fantasy in C minor, KV 385f

a completion and arrangement by Mark Starr
for solo flute, solo harp and string orchestra

of Mozart's unfinished sketch,
the Adagio, KV 385f (1789)

[unfinished portrait of Mozart]

link to biography of Mozart

A demo recording of this work -- realized with digital musical sounds -- will begin to play automatically upon opening this page.  If you do not wish hear it, please mute your computer's speakers.  You may wish to adjust the volume level of your speakers to a more comfortable setting.


Many people believe that masterpieces poured effortlessly out of Mozart and onto manuscript paper, with nary a sketch or a correction. In fact, many of his manuscripts show no traces of changes or corrections.

But mixed in with Mozart's masterpieces are a considerable number of fragmentary sketches and unfinished compositions. Whether he abandoned these works in mid-stream, or merely put them aside momentarily, intending to finish them at a later time, no one can say.  His premature and mysterious death in 1791 may be the simple explanation why many of these sketches were never completed.

One of the most intruiging of the fragmentary sketches is the Adagio, KV 385f - which is known by the name of Fantasy in C minor (not to be confused the great Fantasy in C minor, KV 475, for piano, which Mozart composed in 1785.)

For the Adagio KV 385f, Mozart composed only 27 bars of music.  This represents only the exposition, which usually constitutes less than one-half of a typical Mozart slow movement.  In other words, Mozart composed only the music up until repeat barline.

However, several years after Mozart's death, the sketch was completed and arranged by the Abbé Maximillian Stadler (1748 - 1833.)  Stadler was an acquaintance of Mozart.  In 1796, five years after Mozart's death, Stadler moved from Linz to Vienna -- where he settled Mozart estate.  Presemably, it was then that he found the unfinished sketch for the Adagio, KV 385f. 

Mozart's sketch was notated on three staves: 2 treble staves and one bass staff.  It is theorized that Mozart intended the piece for violin and piano - but who knows how the piece would have ended up had he finished it?  No instruments are indicated.  Stadler arranged Mozart's sketch for piano 2-hands.  Then he composed all the material following the double-bar repeat -- which was about twice as long as Mozart's 27 bars.

The work was later published and re-published (by Edition Peters, among others) in Stadler's composite version.  However, in some printed editions, the fact that all the music following the double-bar repeat was composed by Stadler was not made clear.  Either the informative footnote was in small type, or the information was buried in a turgid introduction.  Consequently, many pianists who have played the work in this form have been under the misapprehension that Mozart composed the entire movement.  And that has caused considerable perplexity -- since Stadler's contribution is utterly uninspired, virtually unrelated to Mozart's themes, and stylistically a travesty.  An article in the Neue Mozart Ausgabe (which republished Stadler's composite version under a separate Kochel number) makes it clear that the second part of the movement is not by Mozart.

It should be stressed that Mozart's fragmentary sketch is great music, incomplete though it may be - and it promised still greater things to come. This is a late composition. Recently, it was defintively dated as being composed in 1789, two years before the composer's death. (It's Kochel number suggests that it was composed much earlier, but that is misleading.)

Music of this extraordinary quality should not be left to dusty archives.  It calls out for a better completion to make the music accessible to modern listeners in live performances.  When Mark Starr resolved to attempt a new completion of Mozart's fragmentary sketch, the first thing he did was eliminate all of Stadler's contribution.

One of the most striking elements in the Adagio is an arpeggio that opens the work, and which reappears many times in different keys.  The wide range of this arpeggio suggests an extended arpeggio played by a harp.  Upon analyzing Mozart's 27 bars, Starr found that the writing seems to fall naturally into two solo parts plus and accompanying ensemble.  The two instruments best suited for the solo parts seemed to him a harp and a solo flute; and the accompaniment was easily handled by a string orchestra.  This, of course, closely matches the orchestation of one of Mozart's best-known works: the Concerto for flute and harp in C major, KV 299.  The remarkble sonority of this popular concerto is uniquely linked to Mozart.

With regard to the harp part, it should be noted that, in his Concerto for flute and harp, Mozart composed the harp part for a single-action harp -- i.e., a harp with pedals that could change each class of pitches either up-or-down by one-half step.  Mozart's concerto, which is in C major, contains many incidental B-flats, E-flats, F-sharps, C-sharps and G-sharps in the harp part. 



A restored 18th Century single-action harp 

The single-action pedal harp was developed primarily in the 1760s, 1770s and 1780s by Hochbrucker in the Tyrol region of Austria, by Krumpholz in Czechoslovakia, by Nadermann in Germany, and by the Erard company in Paris.  Mozart composed this concerto in 1778 in Paris.

The Fantasy, despite its middle-range Kochel numbers, was composed in Vienna in 1789. It was precisely during those intervening years that composer/harpist/inventor Jean-Baptiste Krumpholz perfected the pedal mechanism for the single-action harp, thus permitting the fast alternation of chromatic notes with the feet. Krumpholz, who died in 1790 (a year before Mozart,) wrote many chromatic notes in his works for the pedal single-action harp.)

With regard to Mark Starr's completion of the Adagio, his realization of the second half of the work entailed no new or original thematic material. All the themes in the second half are either developed from Mozart's themes, or they are exact repeats of Mozart's themes (in the re-capitulation.)

Starr's completion explores several remote keys.  For the tonal plan, he used as a model another Adagio by Mozart -- the great Adagio in B minor for piano, KV 540.   In this work (and also in another late work, the Fantasy in F minor for Mechanical Organ, KV 608,) it is clear that Mozart reveled in surprising modulations to remote keys in his final years.

duration:  9 minutes


The full score for Mark Starr's arrangement of Fantasy in C minor, KV 385f, is available online for perusal, audition, purchase, downloading and printing.  Here is a link to the full score




Orchestral parts are available on rental from Noteworthy Musical Editions for public performances and/or commercial recordings.