Mozart - Musical Game in C K. 516f*

By Hideo Noguchi (Kobe/Japan)

During the latter half of the 18th century and the earlier half of the 19th century some copies of musical games called "Musikalische Würfelspiele" were published in many cities all over Europe. All the publishers stated that an infinite number of compositions could be written by any amateur, even if he were not familiar with the techniques or rules of composing. The tools recommended to select the musical figures were either one to three dice pieces or tops with six or nine faces in assistance with numeral tables. Some of the methods required the players to select the bars directly from the staves, where no tables were given. The musical styles were, except for a few cases, dances (such as minuets, contredanses or waltzes) or marches. The compositions were limited either to a single melody without accompaniment, to two lines for clavier, or to three lines for trio scoring[1].

Several kinds of "Musikalische Würfelspiele" were spuriously published under the name of Mozart[2] and are designated as K. Anh. 294d/Anh. C 30.01 in the Köchel 6th edition of 1964. We can find an autographed genuine musical game by Mozart in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (Collection Malherbe) with signature Ms. 253, which is designated as K. Anh. 294d/516f but which was not recorded in Mozart's "Verzeichnüß aller meiner Werke". A facsimile of the autograph was published for the first time in 1986 in Japan[3].

This one leaf (see Figure 1 and Figure 2) includes in piano reduction, on the upper two staves of what we may call the first side or page, a six-bar incipit from the third movement of Mozart's g-minor String Quintet K. 516[4], on the lower six staves of this side and on the first seven staves of the reverse side are the scribbled one-voice figures of the Musical Game in C K. 516f. Following the first two-bar motif on both pages, Mozart prepared many groups of two-bar melodies (with one exception) which may be selected at random, and the last staves on the two pages are an example of one solution written by Mozart himself. But since there are no instructions of how to select from the alphabet the small or capital letters, or from the numbers either 1 or 2 (which correspond to the two bars of music), a complete explanation for this Musical Game bas not been reported.

The following themes will be considered in the present article: (1) the meaning of the alphabet letters; (2) the method of the sample solution by Mozart; (3) the meaning of the numbers 1 and 2; (4) the date of completion of the work; (5) for whom the work was written; and (6) how to play this musical game.

Nissen wrote " Von Mozart und seine Handschrift" on page 1, while the Köchel sixth edition excerpted the incipit from page 2. Which is actually the first page? We will in any case begin with the page we designated above as side 1 (see Figure 3). Here we find 24 small alphabetical letters ("j" and "x" do not appear) for each of the two bars after the first two bars; these are then followed by 14 capital letters (here the vowels and "C", "H","J", "R", "V", "X" and "Y" do not appear). Since Mozart could easily have used all 26 letters of the alphabet[5], it is likely that he purposely deleted some letters. For example, "Q" seems originally to have been another letter which might have been an "S"; therefore "Q" was necessary for Mozart's purpose. The reason that "j" ("J") is deleted can be explained by the fact that "j" ("J") is the consonantal form of the letter "i" ("I"). But it can not be readily explained why "x" ("X") or almost half of the capital letters were not necessary for Mozart's purpose. The following scheme showing the deletions may be a hint to the answer to this question :

_B_D_ FG__ KLMN_ PQ_ ST__ W_ Z.

We must be satisfied here to agree that Mozart decided the selection of the letters by some unknown rules. From the traces that "a" through "P" are not lapped over the notes in the lower staff but "Q", "T" and "Z" are partly lapped over in Figure 1, the following sequence would be suggested; (1) Mozart filled in the music from the third to the seventh staff, (2) wrote down the alphabet "a" to "Z" with care not to be lapped over the notes in the each lower staff, and (3) made the sample composition in the eighth staff for he might not mind that "Q" ,"T" and "Z" were already rushed into the staff. The selected paired bars in the eighth staff represent those musical figures denoted by the letters "fanciS" (reading from left to right). To consider the meaning of this word, the following words will be examined: (1) FANCI[E] S (Eng.), (2) FANCI [ULLE]S[CA] (It.), (3) F[R]ANCIS, and (4) F[R]ANCIS[CA]. The reason an English word "fancy" is considered is that Mozart had begun to learn English sometime before March 1787[6], and it suggests that the method of composition of the musical game is secret and "pure fancy"[7]. "Fanciullesca" is used as in "con fanciullesca ingenuità" which suggests that the musical game should be played "with the innocence of a child". But it seems likely that a name, either Francis or Francisca, who was a possible acquaintance of Mozart, was intended.

The music on page 1 is rather poor in the configuration, i.e., we find neither rests, chords, cadences nor double bars in any of the two-bar groups. It is likely that Mozart intended not to complete a piece of music but only to check the possibility of "ars combinatoria" on page 1, because rests and cadences are indispensable to a music. One might suggest the possibility that the music on page 1 was not composed by Mozart himself but is a copy of another's dice game, which he made in order to continue with something more complex. But this possibility may be very slight because if the version before us should be considered the copy, rests, cadences and double bars should have been transfered by Mozart from the original.

The music on page 2 (see Figure 2) is more manifold in melodies and rhythms and also has more slurs, as well as rests, chords and cadences. Each two-bar group is generally clearly separated by a double bar. Here the numbers 1 and 2, with a couple of corrections by Mozart, are assigned to each two-bar group. We also find a correction in the solution written out by Mozart. He might have made the corrections in accordance with some rules. But on what basis can we select either figure 1 or 2? We must remember that the name of an acquaintance would lead the music toward the solution. Let us therefore supply an alphabet for the musical figures on page 2: "a" for the first paired bars 1 and 2, "b" for the next pair, etc., with "j" and "x" deleted as on page 1. All of the bars require just 24 alphabetical letters as shown in Figure 4. Mozart's solution in the seventh staff is read as follows:

f1 r2 al n1 c2 i2 s2 c1 a2.

Thus it is proven that the name intended was Francisca.

Why was Francisca "Fancis" on page 2? Is "Fancis" a nickname for Francisca? Surely not, and I would propose that (1) "r" was carelessly left out by Mozart, (2) the letters "c" and "a" were left out because they had already been used, and a second selection of the same letters was probably prohibited by the rules, (3) capital letters might have been permitted to replace small letters where a letter recurred, but "C" and "A" were initially, and perhaps only accidentally, omitted on the first page, and accordingly (4) the selection on page 1 might then have been abandoned and the music on page 2 might be created as a revised new version of the musical game.

The problem of recurring letters was improved on page 2, where Mozart set up the numbers 1 and 2 so that each could be represented by one letter of the alphabet. It might have been Mozart's intention to select the last two paired bars (= "z1", "z2") as the C major ending. The rules of selection might be applied as follows:

Rule 1.
Write a name, appending "z" at the end.
Example 1.
Rule 2.
Rewrite the letters in alphabetical order.
Example 2.
Rule 3.
If a letter recurs, place it on second appearance at the end of the main group, and separated by the mark +.
Example 3.
acfinrsz + ac
Rule 4.
Assign the number 1 or 2 to each letter one after the other; where the number 1 is assigned to the main group, the number 2 must be assigned to the group after the + sign, and vice versa, in order not to duplicate numbers and therefore musical figures.
Example 4.
al c2 f1 i2 n1 r2 s1 z2 + a2 c1
Rule 5.
Return to the original spelling.
Example 5.
f1 r2 al n1 c2 i2 s1 c1 a2 z2

A rigid application of the above rules would give a slightly different solution than that offered by Mozart, namely in the assigning of numbers to the letter "s". This suggests that one must temper the rules for better results, though it seems difficult to determine in this case which solution on purely musical grounds is correct, s1 or s2.

The two bars of g1 seem very similar to Zerlina's "Vedrai, carino" shown in Figure 5. It is likely that g1 is the development of the preceding bars(f2), therefore this work might have been written independently of and before "Don Giovanni" (K. 527).

If on page 1 of our manuscript the Clavierauszug of K. 516 is not a sketch for the composition of the Quintet, as the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe points out[8], Francisca might have been a piano pupil of Mozart. - Was this the announcement that she was promised to be provided with a clavier edition of the Quintet? Was this the corrected version for a completed clavier edition of the Quintet? We can only say that K. 516f might have been written between 16 May 1787 (date of K. 516) and 28 October 1787 (date of K. 527 in Mozart's "Verzeichnüß"), based on the above assumption. If the name Francisca was taken after St. Joanna Francisca de Chantal (1572-1641), the date of her feast on 21 August might be worth considering.

It is not difficult to identify our Francisca from among Mozart's acquaintances in the year 1787. Franc. Cajetan a Ployer, who wrote a Latin poem in Mozart's album on 28 June 1787, was once thought to be Francisca Cajetana Ployer[9], but the signature has proven to be that of Franz Kajetan Ployer[10]. The only possible female is therefore Francisca[11] von Jacquin (1769-1853), daughter of the famous botanist Professor Nicolaus Josef Baron von Jacquin (1727-1817). To Francisca's brother Gottfried von Jacquin (1767-1792) Mozart wrote letters at least four times in 1787. He and she both were furthermore pupils of Mozart[12], who in turn wrote many works for the household music-making of the Jacquin family, namely:

1) Six vocal ensembles K. 439, 438, 436, 437, 346/439a, 549 and the "Bandel" trio K. 441 were written between 1783 and 1788 during the intimate friendship of the Mozarts and the Jacquins in Vienna. This might be the reason why none of these works were published in Mozart's life time and why copies of these works were not known outside the circle of friends connected with Gottfried[13].

2) The piano trio K. 498 and the four-hand piano sonata K. 497 might have been written for Francisca as pianist in August 1786. The trio was surely played in Jacquin's house with Mozart as violist and Anton Stadler as clarinettist[14].

3) The flute quartet K. 298 was written around the last quarter of the year 1786 (or perhaps somewhat later). A theme with variations in the first movement, similar to Franz Anton Hoffmeister's song "An die Natur", could have been suggested by Gottfried[15].

4) The aria K. 513 was written on 23 March 1787 as the friendly gift for Gottfried, who possessed a well-trained bass voice. But the range requirement for the voice part is rather moderate, from A to es'[16].

5) The double-canon K. 228/515b with Mozart's English compliment, "Vienna the 24 April 1787 / don't never forget your true and faithfully - WAM" was found in the album (1787) of Joseph Franz von Jacquin[17].

6) The song K. 520 was written on 26 May 1787 in the Vienna Landstrasse, in Gottfried's room, and the song K. 530, also for Gottfried, on 6 November 1787 in Prague. Both were published under Gottfried's name, probably with Mozart's permission, on 26 March 1791[18].

7) The four-hand piano sonata K. 521 was written on 29 May 1787 and was sent to Gottfried with a letter advising Francisca to tackle it at once, because it was rather difficult[19].

8) The aria K. 621a was possibly composed for Gottfried in 1787 (or 1791?) in Prague, if in fact it is the same aria described in Mozart's letters of 15 October and 4 November 1787 to Gottfried from Prague. Constanze Mozart, by the way, attributed the work to Gottfried, not to Mozart[20].

In the facsimile we find a horizontal crease between the sixth staff and the seventh and a vertical crease on the left hand side of page 2 (see Figure 2). It has also been reported that the lower edge of the paper was cut off, leaving only eight staves[21]. How many staves were originally prepared on this paper? I turned my attention to the irregular pattern in the profile created by the left ends of the staves. The first line of the first staff, for example, projects further to the left than the other lines of that staff, while the first line of the fourth staff is set further to the right etc.[22]. The paper therefore shows a striking similarity with that used for the "Twelve Duos for two Horns K. 487/496a" (see Figure 6) and is thus suggested to be the same type of the twelve-staff paper[23]. For further confirmation the paper has a watermark (three moons, of a particular size and shape) that is able to be identified as that of a particular paper-type which was always used by Mozart with twelve staves[24]. It is likely that because the paper was folded exactly in two, the crease remained between the sixth staff and the seventh, which means the cutting away would have been done after the folding. The sequence would be as follows:

1) A clavier version of music from K. 516 was written on page 1.

2) A preliminary version of Musical Game K. 516f was written on page 1 but abandoned.

3) An improved version of Musical Game K. 516f was written on page 2.

4) The paper was folded once horizontally, in the middle, and (two or) three times vertically.

5) The lower four staves were cut away.

Why was the paper folded? Why were the lower four staves cut off[25]?

It is still impossible to answer these questions.

Mozart's second sample composition on the bottom of page 2 was possibly not intended for voice, in as much as a G clef is used instead of a C clef or an F clef. The structure does not seem to allow canons. It might have been recommended to play a piano accompaniment with the left hand "ad libitum". For our own purposes we may add that if a given name includes "x" in the spelling, "chs" may be substituted in its stead; if a single letter recurs more than twice in a name - "Nannerl", for instance, we may use more + signs in rule 4. But we must be careful because it seems that these are perhaps not of Mozart's intention.

So much for one possible method of playing Mozart's Musical Game K. 516f. We might also add that Mozart had a great inclination to play with names. We can find in his letter to Gottfried on 15 January 1787 a name-list with the nicknames he and his party invented on the journey from Vienna to Prague (see Table 1)[26]. Mozart might have remembered the above name play when he wrote K. 516f; or rather, these names and nicknames (which, of course, do not in themselves make musical sense at all) might have given Mozart the idea of writing the Musical Game K. 516f. The interval of more than four months between the journey and the game requires no special explanation, since the canon "Lieber Freistädtler, lieber Gaulimauli" K. 509a, which includes one of the above nicknames, was written even later, between 4 July and 1 October 1787[27].

A few trials of the musical game were played to test the conclusions of this essay and the results are shown in Figure 7.

Should I estimate here the music itself of Musical Game K. 516f? Since there is no limit to the number of names and the number of letters one may choose, the number of compositions will be infinite. I recommend that all Mozart lovers in the world play this musical game using their own names and then estimate their/Mozart's music by the composition which results.


With special thanks to the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, and the Archiv der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna, for the courtesy of the photographs.

* I would like to thank Dr. Wolfgang Plath (Augsburg) for consenting to read a draft of this article and for offering helpful comments. I would also like to thank the editor for shaping it into a more readable form.

(This paper is presented in Mitteilungen der ISM 38 (1990), Heft 1-4, p.89-101)

: Musical Game in C K.516f

- Selection of Measures (k516f.lzh, 54kB, Excel95 File)
- File Converter (mml2m47.lzh, 70kB, Windows95 Program in Japanese)
Parts; CH1:Piano
Sound Generator; Roland SC-88VL
Source; Facsimile of Autograph


Author: Hideo Noguchi
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(Originally uploaded:1997/10/19, Last updated:1997/12/28)