Mozart The reign of love

Jan Swafford

Book - 2020

At the earliest ages it was apparent that Wolfgang Mozart's singular imagination was at work in every direction. He hated to be bored and hated to be idle, and through his life he responded to these threats with a repertoire of antidotes mental and physical. Whether in his rabidly obscene mode or not, Mozart was always hilarious. He went at every piece of his life, and perhaps most notably his social life, with tremendous gusto. His circle of friends and patrons was wide, encompassing anyone who appealed to his boundless appetites for music and all things pleasurable and fun. Mozart was known to be an inexplicable force of nature who could rise from a luminous improvisation at the keyboard to a leap over the furniture. He was forever d...rumming on things, tapping his feet, jabbering away, but who could grasp your hand and look at you with a profound, searching, and melancholy look in his blue eyes. Even in company there was often an air about Mozart of being not quite there. It was as if he lived onstage and off simultaneously, a character in life's tragicomedy but also outside of it watching, studying, gathering material for the fabric of his art. Like Jan Swafford's biographies Beethoven and Johannes Brahms, Mozart is the complete exhumation of a genius in his life and ours: a man who would enrich the world with his talent for centuries to come and who would immeasurably shape classical music. As Swafford reveals, it's nearly impossible to understand classical music's origins and indeed its evolutions, as well as the Baroque period, without studying the man himself.

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BIOGRAPHY/Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
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New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers [2020]
Main Author
Jan Swafford (author)
First edition
Physical Description
xvi, 810 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [745]-775) and indexes.
  • Introduction
  • Prologue
  • Part I.
  • Chapter 1. Leopold
  • Chapter 2. Papa
  • Chapter 3. Das Königreich Rücken
  • Chapter 4. An Instrument at the Command of Music
  • Chapter 5. Liars, Slanderers, and Envious Creatures
  • Chapter 6. Tralaliera
  • Chapter 7. Exsultate, Jubilate
  • Part II.
  • Chapter 8. Inertia
  • Chapter 9. Breaking
  • Chapter 10. No Vacancy Here
  • Chapter 11. Love and Money
  • Chapter 12. Ashes
  • Chapter 13. A Scoundrel, A Lousy Rogue
  • Part III.
  • Chapter 14. Return
  • Chapter 15. Gnagflow and Znatsnoc
  • Chapter 16. Monstrous Many Notes
  • Chapter 17. Last Return, Last Departure
  • Chapter 18. Long and Laborious Efforts
  • Chapter 19. The Greatest Composer
  • Chapter 20. If You Want to Dance, My Little Count
  • Chapter 21. This Truest and Best Friend
  • Chapter 22. Viva La Libertà
  • Chapter 23. With Nothing You Can Create Nothing
  • Chapter 24. The Truth of the Moment
  • Chapter 25. Endings and Beginnings
  • Chapter 26. An Eternal Crown
  • Chapter 27. Et Lux Perpetua Luceat EIS
  • Epilogue
  • Appendix: Musical Forms in Mozart's Time
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Index of Musical Compositions
  • General Index
Review by Booklist Review

Swafford, who's already penned critically acclaimed biographies of Beethoven and Brahms, turns to, as he puts it, "by far the sanest, the most gregarious, least self-flagellating of the three." And, more to the point, arguably the greatest. If tackling an 832-page biography of anybody seems daunting for the general reader, Swafford makes it almost effortless with Mozart, animating his genius (as a child, away from the clavier during his father Leopold's quiet time, Wolfgang would, say, compose a symphony for full orchestra to occupy himself); detailing the interpersonal dynamics with family, lovers, friends, rivals, and patrons that would drain him even as he pushed on to create more than 600 indelible works in his 35 years; drawing a visceral portrait of the cities where Mozart composed and performed--Salzburg, Vienna, Paris, Prague, among them--and of the shifting European sociopolitical milieu in which he had to operate, not always deftly; and, as a composer himself, offering an astute yet thoroughly approachable analysis, almost piece by piece, of the composer's entire canon, lingering fittingly on the composer's major operas. This isn't hagiography; Mozart's warmth, openness, supreme musical taste, and sheer joyfulness can't shield his vulgarity, his vanity, his pettiness, his cravenness before the patrons on whom he had to rely. All of which make him as fascinatingly human as the rest of us. A virtually indispensable volume for the music collection.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Many consider Mozart (1756--91), christened Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus (Amadeus came later), the greatest musical genius of all time. Composer Swafford, an old hand at writing biographies of musical greats (Beethoven; Johannes Brahms; Charles Ives), tracks Mozart's life from the earliest years, when it became apparent that he was a prodigy, so much so that his father, Leopold, paraded his young son and his sister, an accomplished pianist, around Europe to introduce them to various royal courts. In Austria, young Mozart even sat on the lap of Empress Maria Theresa. Without resorting to technical terminology or offering musical illustrations, Swafford traces Mozart's development from prodigy to mature composer, weaving together the events of Mozart's life and the cultural milieu in which he worked. Included are an index of musical compositions, notes, and works cited. VERDICT The copious detail will appeal to musicologists, while the flowing, conversational style will draw in general readers who'd like to learn more about the composer. Heartily recommended to everyone with an interest in the subject.--Edward B. Cone, New York

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

The prodigious career of a musical icon. Composer and biographer Swafford brings expertise and insight to bear on a comprehensive, animated life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Debunking a romanticized image of Mozart as a tormented artist, the author portrays a "jolly and informal" man with a "boundless appetite for pleasure." Drawing on many previous biographies, along with Mozart's published letters, Swafford offers a thorough analysis of Mozart's overwhelming oeuvre--symphonies, masses, sacred music, chamber music, concertos, and operas that include The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and The Magic Flute. Readers already familiar with Mozart's music and musical terms will be rewarded by Swafford's sprightly analyses; others may feel at sea, even with the help of an appendix explaining musical forms in Mozart's time. As many readers know, Mozart was a prodigy, playing the clavier and composing when he was 5 and giving concerts at 6. By the time he was 11, Mozart was famous throughout Europe. His manipulative, domineering father hoped that the boy's genius would be the family's enduring meal ticket. Although Swafford supports his contention that Mozart was a happy man and a devoted, loving husband, he concedes, too, that the composer could assume "a posture of superiority" and sometimes became overcome with "exaggerated paranoia." Despite being prolific (Mozart wrote once to his sister "that he composed as easily as a sow piddles"), his efforts were not always acclaimed: "He is a great master, ran the usual critical line, but he cannot restrain his overweening imagination, his chilly intellectualism, his too many notes." Often short of money to fulfill his desires "to live in a fine apartment and to buy the best piano and best billiard table, and the grandest clothes," he worked tirelessly, managing hectic demands with "a surfeit of brilliance, fearlessness, and energy." Swafford deftly captures that brilliance in a challenging narrative that is sure to thrill classical music fans but will leave many general readers in the dark. An admiring, authoritative biography. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.