Mozart: A Life

Mozart: A Life

Paul Johnson

Language: English

Pages: 176

ISBN: 0143126067

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“Most satisfying . . . A highly accessible initial foray into an astonishing, and inexhaustible, subject.” —The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Mozart’s music has enthralled listeners for centuries. In this brilliant biography, acclaimed historian Paul Johnson draws upon his expert knowledge of the era and Mozart’s own private letters to conjure Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life and times in rich detail. Johnson charts Mozart’s life from age three through to his later years—when he penned The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. Along the way, Johnson challenges some of the popular myths that cloud Mozart’s image: his allegedly tempestuous personal relationships and supposedly bitter rivalry with Salieri, as well as the notion that he was desperately impoverished when he died. The result—a bold, invigorating portrait of one of the most popular and influential composers of all time—is a welcome addition to Johnson’s extraordinary body of work and makes a perfect gift for classical music lovers and fans of biographies.

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crooks still standard in Mozart’s day. Born in the hunting field, it made itself indispensable in the orchestral band because, apart from anything else, it can produce tremendous acoustic power and shout down even an organ playing fortissimo when required. On the other hand, it can enchant with its softness and melancholy, its dismal moaning and distant whispering, lowing like inspired cattle or murmuring under and over the strings. To make the horn perform its huge repertoire of tricks, you

he too were guided by a divine impulse. He wrote to Mozart in 1778: “As a child and a boy you were serious rather than childish and when you sat at the clavier or were otherwise intent on music, no one dared to have the slightest jest with you. Why, even your expression was so solemn that, observing the early efflorescence of your talent and your ever grave and thoughtful little face, many discerning people . . . doubted whether your life would be a long one.” Leopold Mozart’s ability as a

knowledge and experience, sometimes illuminated by flashes of pure genius. The original play by Pierre Beaumarchais was a consciously radical assault on aristocratic privileges and pretensions and ran into trouble everywhere for precisely the reason that it showed humble-born persons as morally superior to aristocrats and getting the better of them for that reason—having higher intelligence, too. That is what initially attracted Mozart so strongly to the project, for it gave him its emotional

timing—having fun, then at precisely the right second, switching to deadly seriousness. But it was a serious note that was never solemn. How deep the Masonic imagery goes in this strange and exotic work, no one will ever know. It keeps its secrets, as Mozart intended. But one aspect is striking. It has virtually nothing in common with his religious music. It is as though he lived in two quite distinct universes, which he kept entirely separate, intellectually and emotionally. They are never

“which makes you sweat,” as Mozart put it, and the one in D, which in places makes the piano sound like a brass instrument and is known as the Trumpet Sonata (K. 576). Mozart’s own playing was delicate but staccato. Beethoven, who heard him once (he almost became a pupil), thought his technique was “too choppy.” He had an almost uncanny feeling for the keyboard. He knew how these instruments worked, from the inside, and why they failed to work well. A letter he wrote to his father from

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