Mozart &
Material Culture


Music journalist, book dealer and translator. After studying in Copenhagen, Cramer took up a position at the University of Kiel in 1775; while there he published a multi-volume biography of Friedrich Klopstock, translated opera librettos, including Antonio Salieri’s Armida, and published a music magazine, Magazin der Musik (Hamburg and Copenhagen, 1783-1789). A supporter of the French revolution, Cramer moved to Paris in 1795 where he translated into German texts by Rousseau and Diderot.

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Carl Friedrich Cramer, Magazin der Musik, title-page, 1783

Mozart Relevance

Cramer’s Magazin der Musik regularly reported on music and musicians across the continent. Several issues contain notices concerning Mozart. On 27 March 1783 the magazine reported from Vienna that Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail K384 ‘is full of beauties. . . It surpassed the public’s expectation, and the author’s taste and new ideas, which were entrancing, received the loudest and most general applause.’ On 4 April, Cramer described Mozart’s keyboard and violin sonatas K376, K296 and K377-380 (published as opus II) as ‘rich in new ideas and traces of their author’s great musical genius. Very brilliant and suited to the instrument. At the same time, the violin accompaniment is so ingeniously combined with the keyboard part that both instruments are constantly kept in equal prominence. . .’. A frequently cited notice published in the 23 April 1787 issue, is somewhat more critical:

  1. He is the most skilful and best keyboard scholar I have ever heard; the pity is only that he aims too high in his artful and truly beautiful compositions, in order to become a new creator, whereby it must be said that feeling and heart profit little. His new quartets for 2 violins, viola and bass, which he has dedicated to Haydn, may well be called too highly seasoned—and whose palate can endure this for long? Forgive this simile from the cook book. . .

The six quartets dedicated to Haydn—K387, K421, K428, K458, K464 and K465—are mentioned again, though somewhat more positively, in a letter dated July 1789: ‘It is true, too, and his six quartets for violins, viola and bass dedicated to Haydn confirm it once again, that he has a decided leaning towards the difficult and the unusual. But then, what great and elevated ideas he has too, testifying to a bold spirit!’

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W. A. Mozart, String Quartet K465, first page of the autograph score (London, British Library)

Music journalist, book dealer and translator
Date 1
Date 2
1807-12-08 Paris
Bibliographic Reference
Ratjen, Henning. ‘Cramer, Karl Friedrich’ in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie 4 (Leipzig, 1876), 557-558; Schutt, Rüdiger, ed.,Ein Mann von Feuer und Talenten: Leben und Werk von Carl Friedrich Cramer (Göttingen, 2005)