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The life of Mozart is an oft-told tale. One could ask whether anything new can be added. Well, yes it can, and here it is. Skilfully, without descending to crude simplicity or creating an anachronistic narrative, David Schroeder introduces entertaining modern elements to carry the story along. Thus he generates a relevance for the contemporary reader, creating a book that one can recommend, particularly to someone new to Mozart. In the process Schroeder makes the point that Mozart has now saturated popular culture.

Recent references are included by the device of describing a contemporary event that includes a performance of a Mozart work. ‘You are in New York City on one of the hottest days of the year, 21 august 2012,’ Schroeder writes. ‘Happily you will beat the heat during the evening because you have a ticket to hear the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center.’ Further description of the concert introduces uncomplicated discussion of the Jupiter symphony, which is on the programme. At another point Schroeder discusses the difficulty of performing a march on an instrument that has to be played sitting down, making reference to the cello scene in Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run.

Indeed, the final chapter (‘From Then to Now’) is replete with ways in which outstanding writers, thinkers and film makers have embraced Mozart. Alexander Pushkin began the trend in 1830, when his drama The Stone Guest invoked Don Giovanni. Thirteen years later, Søren Kierkegaard published his Either/Or, another essay about Mozart and Don Giovanni. Then, just after the turn of the century, George Bernard Shaw brought his own perspective to the same subject in his play Man and Superman of 1903. And, as we all know, the biggest Mozart splash during the 20th century occurred with the making of the film Amadeus by Milos Forman in 1984, based on Peter Shaffer’s play of the same name.

Aimed at non-specialists, containing no photographs or musical examples, the book is nevertheless an attractive and informative companion.

JOHN ROBERT BROWN Read the full review on Agora Classica


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