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German musicologist and biographer, initially a classicist, philologist, and archaeologist.

Author of the first scholarly biography of Mozart:

  • W. A. Mozart, 4 vols (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1856‒59), rev. 2nd edn, 2 vols (1867), 3rd edn, ed. and rev. H. Deiters, 2 vols (1889).

Jahn and Schenker

Schenker's library at his death included a copy of the two-volume third edition (along with Köchel's catalog of Mozart's works and Nottebohm's Mozartiana).

Schenker took a reserved view of Jahn's work. His diary for December 1906 recounts a bet struck with Paul Hammerschlag as to how many lines Jahn had devoted in his biography to Mozart's G minor Symphony: "I guessed 40; in actuality there are 60, but when it comes down to it there isn't a single one."

Schenker's attitude comes through also in the following passages from Der Tonwille : An instinctive humility before genius could still lead an Otto Jahn, the first to attempt a full account of his life, to attribute sacred powers to so incomprehensible a being, and he exhibits grateful enthusiasm where knowledge would have actually intensified his gratitude and enthusiasm. ( Tonwille 1 , p. 17; Eng. transl., vol. I, p. 65)

[N]aturally, all of his investigations must fail, because he cannot comprehend the purely musical content of Mozart's brilliance (the new type of synthesis, the art of voice leading, and so on), not to say anything of presenting it. ( Tonwille 2 , p. 22, fn; Eng. transl., vol. I, p. 69, fn.17)

In a letter to Emil Hertzka dated January 18, 1915, Schenker grouped Jahn scornfully with what he elsewhere called the "hermeneuticists" (i.e. those who wrote about music in romantic terms): In this, the ultimate truth would be told about our masterworks, and all the Kretzschmars, Spittas, Jahns, etc. would be confronted. (WSLB 236)

Nevertheless, Schenker worked through Jahn's biography during the preparatory stages of his long essay on the G minor Symphony in Meisterwerk II , as recorded in his diaries.

In 1931 Schenker had a calling card printed on which he reproduced a passage from a letter allegedly by Mozart describing the composer's method of composition, and distributed it to his friends as an anticipation of his own theories. (No copy of the calling card is known to survive.) Schenker openly admitted at the time that Otto Jahn had questioned the letter's authenticity as early as the 1850s; nevertheless he persisted in writing an article on the "lost letter."


  • Grove Music Online ("Jahn, Otto") (Alec Hyatt King)
  • Schenker, Heinrich, "Ein verschollener Brief von Mozart und das Geheimnis seines Schaffens," Der Kunstwart 44 (July 1931), 660‒66 (copies preserved at OJ 20/10, item 3 and OC 50/12, and a draft in Jeanette Schenker's hand with emendations by Heinrich at OC 16/8‒26)
  • Jahn, Otto, W. A. Mozart, 4 vols (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1856‒59); rev. 2nd edn, 2 vols (1867); 3rd edn, ed. and rev. H. Deiters, 2 vols (1889); 5th edn, ed. Hermann Abert (1923‒24); 7th edn, ed. Anna Amalie Abert (1955‒66); Eng. transl. Pauline Townsend (London: Novello, 1882)


  • Ian Bent

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