Recognising Mozart

Peter Gay

  • Mozart the Dramatist: The Value of his Operas to Him, to his Age and to Us by Brigid Brophy
    Libris, 322 pp, £17.50, June 1988, ISBN 1 870352 35 1
  • 1791: Mozart’s Last Year by H.C. Robbins Landon
    Thames and Hudson, 240 pp, £12.95, March 1988, ISBN 0 500 01411 6
  • Mozart: Studies of the Autograph Scores by Alan Tyson
    Harvard, 381 pp, £27.95, January 1988, ISBN 0 674 58830 4

The literature on Mozart is almost as diverse, though surely not quite so glorious, as Mozart’s own output. These three books are a case in point: a freewheeling analysis of Mozart the opera composer in the Enlightenment, a thoroughly documented survey of Mozart’s last year, and a technical study of Mozart’s manuscripts. Together, they give us a sense that we are closing in on the real Mozart, stripping away as they do myth after myth and replacing impressionistic conjectures by precise information. It is good news, if hardly astonishing, that Mozart’s stature is in no way diminished by such microscopic examination.

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[*] She means, of course, Mozart’s operas, which have for half a century or more received more or less faithful performances – his orchestral music or, for that matter, his chamber music have never lost their power over their audiences.

[†] Not all his material is wholly unexplored: one long passage, which Robbins Landon attributes to a report in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung of October 1800, had already been quoted in Eduard Hanslick’s Geschichte des Concertwesens in Wien (1869-70), and attributed there to a correspondent to the Leipziger Musikzeitung.