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La lyre maconne: Haydn, Mozart, Spohr, Liszt.

By Philippe A. Autexier. Paris: Editions Detrad/A.V.S., 1997. [297 p. ISBN 2-905-319-569. Fr 170.]

Given the notorious secrecy of the Masonic order in the past, it is not surprising that the topic of music and Masonry has always invited conjecture and speculation. Now Philippe Autexier, director of the Centre Mozart in Poitiers, has shed new light on this clouded issue. Relying on sources he discovered during years of research in European libraries and archives, Autexier focuses on four composers from the golden age of Masonic music. He examines the historical and biographical background for each composer's Masonic activities, describes contacts with prominent Masons, establishes sound and detailed chronologies for all Masonic initiations and promotions, and identifies previously unknown or mislabeled Masonic compositions.

Above all, Autexier makes a valuable addition to the sizable literature on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Masonry, placing the composer in the middle of an ideological debate between conflicting factions within the Viennese lodges. Autexier's comments on specific compositions are equally illuminating. He refrains from giving yet another Masonic interpretation of The Magic Flute, but focuses on Mozart's Masonic music in the narrow sense - that is, fifteen compositions for Viennese lodges, including nine items with Kochel numbers (K. 148, 429, 468, 471, 477/I-II, 483, 484, 623) and six lost items without Kochel numbers (three from 1785: "Replevit me," "Des Todes Werk," "Vollbracht ist die Arbeit"; and three from 1790: "Legt fur heut'," "Lied im Namen der Armen," "Kettenlied"). Autexier provides a fascinating Masonic interpretation of Mozart's enigmatic drawing on the autograph score of the Piano Concerto K. 449, but the reader would have benefited from the inclusion of a facsimile; likewise, some music examples would have helped Autexier's discussion of Masonic rhythms in the K. 464 and 465 quartets and the Piano Concerto K. 467.

The documents Autexier presents pertaining to Joseph Haydn permit the conclusion that his Masonic life, unlike Mozart's, was limited more or less to the day of his initiation to the lodge Zur wahren Eintracht in Vienna. Searching for compositional manifestations of Masonic ideas, Autexier critically examines the hypothesis of Masonic rhythms in the six "Paris" symphonies (nos. 82-87), commissioned by the Loge Olympique in Paris. His interpretation of the tonal structure of The Creation - though not exactly Masonic - is built on eighteenth-century number symbolism transferred to the alphabet, to key signatures, and to key relations. B (i.e., B[flat]), as the second letter of the alphabet, stood for the couple Adam and Eve; C, the third letter (and, by analogy, all harmonic motions in thirds), stood for the divine; and D, the fourth letter, stood for "the rectangle of the earth" (p. 76).

In the case of Louis Spohr, Masonic research is.just beginning. Here Autexier's findings are truly spectacular. On the basis of previously unknown letters and Masonic documents, he reveals details about Spohr's encounters with prominent Masons in the Gotha and Frankfurt lodges and on his travels, establishes the correct dates of his Masonic ceremonies, identifies the poet of the text for the hymn Der Kompass (WoO 89), and presents six Masonic texts Spohr is likely to have set, but for which no music seems to have survived.

The chronology of and personal motivation for Franz Liszt's Masonic membership have never been described accurately, as Autexier demonstrates. His detailed account of Liszt's personal relations with two Masons, Peter Knecht and Philipp Kaufmann, illustrates the lacunae that still exist.

Though historians with specialized interest will have to wait. for Autexier's forthcoming German critical edition of Masonic documents pertaining to Haydn, Mozart, Spohr, and Liszt (Lyra Latomorum, scheduled for publication in 1998) in order to appreciate his findings fully, La lyre maconne is a valuable contribution to the biographies of the four composers and to the study of music and Masonry in general.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Wulfhorst, Martin
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1999
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