Oct. 10th, 2016



If you ever listen to Classic FM for five minutes, you’re sure to hear a plug for this book. At first I disliked it, because it breaks all callmemadam’s rules of biographical writing. It’s full of ‘I am certain that’, ‘no doubt’, ‘he/she/they would have’ etc. No! The only place for the biographer’s fancy is in a fictionalised life and I’m not keen on those, either. I was also slightly insulted to have explained to me the extent of the Holy Roman Empire and who Goethe was. But come on, be fair. Suchet’s book is not intended to be a work of scholarship; he didn’t even want to write it, asking who needed yet another book about Mozart? Classic FM persuaded him that there was a need for a book written in an accessible style to appeal to CFM listeners, which is what he has produced.

His qualifications are: a great love of Mozart and (I didn’t know this), an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal College of Music. He’s also trawled Mozart scholarship extensively. The result is a readable account of Mozart’s life, with liberal quotes from the many letters written by Mozart’s father Leopold and by Mozart himself. (If anyone is going to be upset by discovering that the revered genius was also a filthy minded potty mouth, they’d better not read this.) You can’t help but be drawn in by the tales of the travels Leopold Mozart undertook with Wolfgang and his sister Nannerl. The gruelling conditions of travel in those days! The terrible illnesses suffered by both children! Could it have shortened Mozart’s life? Probably not, since Nannerl lived to old age.

The book is lavishly produced, with many coloured illustrations. The contemporary pictures of the young Mozart seated at a keyboard with his little legs dangling are strangely touching. Quite rightly, you finish the book in a suitable state of awe and wonder at his astonishing genius, ‘God given’ according to both Leopold and Wolfgang, and a saddening sense of what was lost by his early death. It’s hard to read about the end of his life without a tear. The 225th anniversary of his death falls in December 2016.

I was sent a copy of this book by Elliott and Thompson.

In other news, this is the only book I have finished this month. The sole reason for this is that I never want to get back to A Footman for the Peacock and am only reading it in bed. I must finish it and find something I actually want to read.

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