Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mozart (A Penguin Life)Mozart 

"The life of Mozart is the triumph of genius over precociousness. . . In the course of a sadly truncated life--he died on December 5, 1791, at the age of thirty-five--Mozart claimed a place at the thinly occupied pantheon of the greatest composers."(p 1)

Peter Gay has written the perfect short biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In doing so he provides a glimpse into the personal life of the famous composer while commenting on the world around him and his music. For Peter Gay, Mozart is a "Genius" just as he was for Goethe and many since then. Some of the aspects of Mozart's life that are highlighted include his relationship with his overbearing and controlling father whom he would separate from yet continue to reference in his music; but also the lack of appreciation from the nobility and his profligate spending which, more than anything else, led to his increasing requests for pecuniary support from his friends.  The author devotes a chapter to Mozart's mature operas with superlative and succinct discussions of each.  Clearly Gay loves opera as much as Mozart.  And I would be negligent if I did not mention the bibliography, my favorite section in works of serious non-fiction, which is excellent.  Gay relies primarily on secondary sources and his discussion of some of the biographies of Mozart provides direction for the reader who is interested in going further and deeper into the Wolfgang's life.
The saving grace for Mozart was the genius of his music. Gay argues that Mozart continued to improve throughout his career which led Haydn to refer to him as "priceless". Priceless, genius, heavenly, whichever words used to describe Mozart's musical art his legacy is with us today in homes and concert halls and Peter Gay provides the essential reasons why.

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