Biographical Myth and the Publication of Mozart's Piano Quartets
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The story that Mozart was commissioned to write three piano quartets for publication in Franz Anton Hoffmeister's subscription series has proved to be remarkably resilient in the Mozart literature. According to the account that first appeared in Georg Nikolaus von Nissen's biography (1828), Hoffmeister gave Mozart an advance payment for the works, but decided to withdraw after the first quartet, K.478, was poorly received. The article exposes a series of flaws in this narrative by locating Hoffmeister's edition of K.478 in a wider contextual and bibliographical framework than has been hitherto attempted. A revised chain of events, based on a new understanding of Hoffmeister's business, suggests a more complex narrative for Mozart's dealings with the publisher. It also prompts us to reconsider the circumstances surrounding Mozart's composition of his two completed piano quartets and the reception of his chamber music in Vienna before 1791.