WHAT TO LISTEN FOR IN MOZART by Robert Harris

WHAT TO LISTEN FOR IN MOZART

A Guide for the Curious

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Harris, head of variety programming for CBS radio, tries hard- -with very iffy results--to provide unsophisticated listeners with an in-depth introduction to Mozart's life and work. After some predictable opening remarks about Mozart's genius and personality (a ``titan charming the gods''), Harris leaps right into matters of musical theory: the basics of rhythm, meter, melody, harmony; the sonata-allegro form as exemplified by Eine Kleine Nachtmusik; close-textual score-reading. (``Do you see that C sharp that sneaks in at the end of bar 21 in the first violin part?'') Most nonmusicians will be lost, even if they listen (as directed) to a recording while reading. Consistently, in fact, Harris mixes overdemanding musicology with a patronizing tone as he offers close-ups of a half-dozen major instrumental works: ``Don't be frightened by a large work like a concerto....Think of this opening to the piece as if it were the opening to a TV mini- series.'' The detailed discussions of the great operas--Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi Fan Tutte, The Magic Flute--are less technical and more involving, though not particularly fresh or forceful. And the chunks of biography scattered throughout are modestly entertaining and informative, if occasionally simplistic and graceless. (Gratuitously, one of Mozart's most graphic scatological letters is quoted in full.) With, as an appendix, brief appreciations of Harris's ``personal selection of Mozart's Top Fifty works'': an only sporadically effective music-appreciation class--often too dense for beginners, too spoon-fed for serious music-lovers.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-671-75092-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1992




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