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Mozart: The man revealed

John Suchet
Many Arrsers will remember John Suchet as a news reader and his brother David as the actor who made the role of Poirot his own. I was interested to learn that John now has a career in the world of classical music beyond his spells as a Disc Jockey on Classic FM. He has previously published a book about Beethoven, another musical child prodigy and this is his latest effort within the genre of composer biographies.

The book is a large hardback (awkward for bedtime reading), printed on good quality paper, and with many illustration. These take the form of pictures of paintings, photographs of places as they are now, and pictures of scores written by Mozart and now held in various collections.

Mr. Suchet uses as his source material mostly the letters exchanged between Mozart, his father, sister, and other friends and family. Because he and his father travelled so much there are many letters, often very detailed, explaining feelings, business adventures, crowd reactions, travel plans, feuds and arguments. There is a good reference section at the end showing the breadth and depth of research undertaken to produce this book. Despite the weight of research, the book is clearly-written and readable, with a Chronological narrative starting before Mozart was born, and ending with the death of his wife many years after his own.

Mozart’s father seems to have been a very controlling man, and his wife’s life is omitted from a great deal of the correspondence, meaning that the reader concludes that Father was the greater influence on the young composer

I really enjoyed the book, having started with knowledge of the basic details of Mozart’s life, and a slight girly grudge at how history has ignored his sister who was an extremely gifted musician. I learned a lot about social mores of the time, the circumstances when various works were composed, and the sad fact that from six pregnancies, Mozart and his wife raised only two children to adulthood, the others dying within hours or weeks of birth. It was probably common for the time but must have been heart wrenching for the parents and contributed to the atmosphere of some of Mozart’s works.

I liked the description of the young Beethoven (another prodigy) visiting Mozart who was by then an established musician and composer, and also the timing of Mozart’s colleague and librettist Lorenzo da Ponte who accepted a job at the French court but was informed on his journey to take up the post that the King and Queen had been arrested. As an interesting side note this man ended up in the USA and formed a Company that became the New York Metropolitan Opera.

I read this book because I think Mozart is the best composer the world has ever seen. He wrote so much in so little time, and there is something for everyone in his work. This book was a great read for me, and will be for others with either a passing or greater interest in the man, the music and the times they inhabited.

Four mushroom heads. Recommended to everyone.

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