[Readings] Compose Yourself, By Chris Howden | Harper's MagazineCarol Off | Harper's Magazine

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[Readings]

Compose Yourself

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From an April CBC Radio interview of Timothy Jones, conducted by Chris Howden and Carol Off. Jones is a professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

chris howden: This is Sonata in B-flat Major for piano and violin, which an astute ear will recognize as the unmistakable work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Timothy Jones certainly hears the great composer’s signature sound in that piece, but he also hears himself. It is featured on a new album of unfinished sonatas by Mozart, which Mr. Jones spent the past seven years completing. We reached Timothy Jones in London, England.

carol off: Professor Jones, we just heard thirty seconds of the first cut on that album. Is that your work or Mozart’s?

timothy jones: That’s all Mozart.

off: And how much of what is on that cut is you?

jones: Well, I come in at about three minutes, which was the point at which Mozart stopped working on that piece very abruptly.

off: Do you think people will be able to tell the difference?

jones: I don’t know. A great guessing game that they’ll have to play, I think, is where Mozart stops and I start.

off: And you’re not going to tell them?

jones: No, I’m not.

off: Have you tested people? Have you tested experts or colleagues, anybody, to see if they can discern the difference?

jones: I’ve not tested them formally, but there have been plenty of instances where well-known musicians have been playing some of these completions. And they’ve either said, “Oh, I think you’ve gone wrong there”—and it turns out it’s something that Mozart wrote. Or occasionally they’ll say, “Well, I particularly like what Mozart did at that point”—and it turns out it’s me.

off: Do your colleagues think you’re a bit presumptive to finish the work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?

jones: I mean, I think I’m a bit presumptuous. But I’m not trying to write fake Mozart. It’s rather like, you know, if you were a pianist and you’re playing a Mozart concerto, and in the first movement there’s a big gap in the score, so you’ve got to improvise a cadenza. And nobody bats an eyelid.

off: Is it possible that Mozart would not have liked you to have done this?

jones: I’m sure he wouldn’t have.


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