Jordan Hall was packed on Monday night for the first mainstage concert of the Boston Early Music Festival, an evening of Mozart’s chamber music. The performers were all accomplished period instrument specialists, but, it’s fair to say, they were not the only draw of the evening. This was also the North American debut of Mozart’s own violin and viola, which arrived in town on Friday, hand-delivered by representatives of the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation, the owner of both instruments.
Interestingly, both instruments are of good quality, but neither would be considered an example of exquisite 18th-century craftsmanship. The violin, researchers suggest, dates from roughly 1700 and was probably made in Mittenwald, Germany, by a member of the Klotz family of luthiers. The viola’s maker is still unidentified, but the physical object itself tells a story. Its large body was cut back, probably in the early-1800s, suggesting it was at that time still regarded as an instrument for actual musical use, not as a prized relic of music history. Around 100 years later, a silver plate was affixed to the viola’s fingerboard, proudly announcing it as “Mozart’s Viola” and listing the names of its owners dating back to the year of the composer’s death. Somewhere in the intervening century, its aura had been recognized, bestowed, or invented, depending on how one views such things.