1791: Mozart's Last Year
(H.C. Robbins Landon)
When Haydn left on a concert tour to London in December
1790, Mozart said farewell forever, and most people assumed
it was Haydn's health that he was worried about. As we know
now, the elder composer was to live for almost two decades
more; Mozart, a single year. It was to be a year in which he
wrote "The Magic Flute," "La Clemenza di Tito," and the
Clarinet Concerto, as well as most of the Requiem; it was
also a year of mounting disappointment in his career as part
of the Viennese musical establishment, and a year of growing
debt. Landon is keen to debunk the myths: Mozart was not
poisoned, but died of progressive kidney failure, and
Salieri was innocent of his death, though not of promoting
his own career at Mozart's expense. Landon defends Mozart's
wife, Constanze, against the libels of biographers, though
at times his portrait of comfortable bourgeois monogamy
sounds like special pleading and overlaps with hints of
conscientious bohemian racketiness. This is a wonderful
portrait of a great artist and the city where he lived; in
passing, Landon tells us everything we need to know about
musical life, Masonry, and the truth about that pauper's
In the last 20 years alone, Mozart has been the subject of two fine books: Maynard Solomon's meticulous study, which slides Mozart's rather mystifying psyche under the analytic microscope, and Wolfgang Hildesheimer's more sardonic effort, in which the author seems determined to strip every last bit of romantic varnish from the traditional portrait. Now Peter Gay joins the party with his own brief life. Weighing in at 177 pages, "Mozart" will never displace its deep-focus predecessors. But it's a delightful introduction to the composer, whose entire existence was, as Gay puts it, a "triumph of genius over precociousness."
Mozart : A Life
Perhaps the most important Mozart biography ever written, this book is subtle, rich-textured, endlessly stimulating and provocative -- just like the man's music.
Mozart and His Operas
(Stanley Sadie, Editor)
This volume is but one of the wonderful new series of composer-specific studies culled from the "New Grove Dictionary of Opera." You can therefore count on a high standard of scholarship, but also on delightfully reader-friendly information that is quite handy for reference. Featured here are synopses of and interpretive insights on Mozart's operas (including unfamiliar works), a survey of his career, vignettes of his librettists, and a glossary of operatic terms.
Mozart's Letters, Mozart's Life: Selected Letters
(Robert Spaethling, translator
Letters by Mozart in sparkling new translations that capture the flavor of the writing, transmit every nuance, and render every thought faithfully and accurately. What was Mozart really like--wild? sublime? responsible? fun-loving? bright? foul-mouthed? Reading these letters, we learn in his own words that he was all of these and much more. Here is the composer at his most intimate and unguarded, expressing his feelings about life, love, music, and the world around him. For this collection, Robert Spaethling has carefully chosen letters written by Mozart over a span of almost twenty-two years--from his first journey to Italy as a shy teenager to the final months of his life in Vienna. The letters, together with the accompanying introductions, chronicle the composer's life, personal development, and artistic growth. These new translations into English, the first in more than sixty years, are faithful to the original German even to the point of misspellings, which abound in the early correspondence. No effort has been spared to find language as closely equivalent to Mozart's as any translation can be and to clear up references in the letters to people, places, and events. Mozart's Letters, Mozart's Life makes wonderful reading for anyone who has ever loved a work by the composer, from the deceptively simple Eine kleine Nachtmusik to the towering, magnificent Requiem.