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With Classic FM’s name prominent, Suchet’s new book is aimed at a popular readership. He tells his story with pace and energy, though one has to suffer banalities such as ‘little could he have known’, ‘reality struck’, ‘fate intervened’, etc. As in his coffee-table book The Treasures of Beethoven, Suchet is often insecure when he discusses the actual compositions. His remark ‘all five [violin concertos] are among the best-loved concertos for violin ever written’ should read ‘Nos 3-5 are among ...’. The Quartets K168-173 are not the ‘Haydn’ Quartets(p108), whereas the actual works dedicated to Haydn are listed in a footnote on p210. On p9 there is even some wayward maths – the lifespans of Mozart and his sister differ by 43 years, not ‘almost 38 years’.

Are Suchet’s views on Così fan tutte his own? Does he know the opera? He damns with faint praise – ‘contains a moment of heart-stopping beauty’ (just the one?) and apparently has little time for it on account of the ‘absurd’ and ‘immoral’ plot. This dismissal is reminiscent of the widely-held opinion of about 60-70 years ago. Suchet does a disservice to music-lovers by putting them off this wonderful score. That Mozart’s Jupiter symphony is ‘indisputably his greatest’ is another questionable opinion. Two religious works (K317 and K339) inspire the word ‘sublime’ within three lines, yet the richly deserving Sinfonia Concertante K364(following page)does not. Again, Suchet’s view of Exsultate, jubilate as ‘the greatest of all Mozart’s youthful works’ is debatable, and where are those ‘offbeat themes’?

Suchet does include unexpurgated examples of Mozart’s obscene correspondence and does not hide his other unattractive characteristics.

Much of what he has written suggests thorough research, so it is all the more disappointing to find factual errors, even though he mentions very reliable sources in his Afterword – exposing a lack of editorial input.

PHILIP BORG-WHEELER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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