An ideal introduction to understanding the famous composer.
A British broadcaster and renowned Beethoven expert, Suchet (The Last Waltz: The Strauss Dynasty and Vienna, 2016, etc.) is a terrific guide for general readers to delve into the life, art, and times of the great composer. It’s like attending a lively, entertaining, and informative lecture, with a slide show of illustrations going by in the background: here’s Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791) as a young boy (Wolferl to his family), mischievously smiling, here’s the 16-year-old Beethoven playing the piano for the 31-year-old Mozart, who later said, “watch out for that boy; one day he will give the world something to talk about.” Suchet’s aim is to truly “reveal the man,” warts and all. Leopold, his always difficult, domineering father, saw the genius early on when, at age 3, Mozart could replicate what his talented older sister Nannerl was playing at the clavichord. He was soon playing the instrument (blindfolded, later), composing music, and teaching himself the violin. Leopold immediately saw a moneymaking opportunity and took both on a rigorous road tour, the first of many. Mozart was 6. Suchet notes that no “other composer travelled as much as Mozart.” Overall, it was 3,720 days, nearly one-third of his life. He never attended school, was forever on display, and was often ill. He worked constantly at composing, which was “as natural as breathing.” The author draws extensively on the many surviving letters to help fashion his discerning portrait of an often witty and happy genius who also delighted in the scatological. He lightly touches on many of Mozart’s compositions with just the right amount of analysis and opinion. The Marriage of Figaro “would change the face of opera.” Don Giovanni was his “finest, most complex, most dramatically and musically perfect opera.” Jupiter, Mozart’s final piece, written “with unhappiness around him,” is “indisputably his greatest symphony.”
Rich with wit and warmth,
this compact biography is thoroughly enchanting.