This major work, the result of years of careful study and analysis, places Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's life and music in the context of the intellectual, political and artistic currents of eighteenth-century Europe. The result is a fresh interpretation of Mozart's genius, as Robert Gutman shows the great composer in a new light. With an informed and sensitive handling, Mozart emerges as an affectionate and generous man with family and friends, self-deprecating, witty, and winsome but also an austere moralist, incisive and purposeful. The major genres in which Mozart worked-chamber music, liturgical, theater and keyboard compositions, concertos, operas, symphonies, and oratorios-are unfolded to reveal a man of luminous intellect. Mozart is an extraordinary portrait of a man and his times and a brilliant distillation of musical thought.
Readers who think of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) as the shrieking vulgarian depicted in Peter Shaffer's hit play (and movie) Amadeus will be astonished by the man they meet in this biography by music historian Robert Gutman: "affectionate and generous ... an austere moralist of vital force, incisiveness, and strength of purpose." Without scanting Mozart's often maladroit handling of his patrons or his earthy way with words ("Let the whole company of patricians lick my ass," he declared in a 1777 letter), Gutman portrays a musical genius who slowly and painfully achieved personal maturity as he emerged from the shadow of his domineering father. The rich cultural life of 18th-century Europe forms a vivid background for Mozart's professional and artistic evolution. And Gutman's descriptions of Mozart's work are models of music writing for the lay reader: they capture the brilliance and beauty of the great composer's art in easily accessible language, as in the analysis of The Marriage of Figaro's place in "a new aesthetic of surging movement ... the vocal and orchestral lines twine, separate, and reunite in confrontation, opposition, and accommodation, an ever-changing, effortless interlacing." The prose delineating Mozart's complex personality is just as full-bodied and perceptive. --Wendy Smith