Mozart's music has enthralled listeners for centuries. In this brilliant biography, acclaimed historian Paul Johnson conjures Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's life and times in rich detail, focusing particularly on the music - Mozart's genius, his extraordinary compositional output, and his uncanny gift for instrumentation.
Johnson charts Mozart's life from age three, when he first recognized chords, to his childhood as a touring music prodigy to his post as an official court musician in Salzburg to his later years, when he penned two of his most magnficent operas, The Marriage of Figaroand Don Giovanni. Drawing from letters Mozart exchanged with his family and friends, Johnson illuminates this legendary musician's mind - his wit, charisma, and drive - with keen insight and clarity. In this remarkable life, which jumps from Viennese royal courts to dazzling Czech concert halls to other European capitals, Mozart vividly emerges as the masterful artist we celebrate today.
Liszt once said that Mozart composed more bars than a trained copyist could write in a lifetime. In addition to celebarting Mozart's prolific compositional oeuvre, Johnson suggests that as a musician, Mozart was incredibly inventive and adventurous. The only instrument he failed to master was the harp, and no sooner had the clarinet been invented than he began composing for it and incorporating it into his arrangements.
Johnson also challenges some of the popular myths that cloud Mozart's image- that he had a tempestuous relationship with his father and wife, that he and Salieri were bitter rivals, and that he was desperately impoverished when he died. Armed with expert knowledge of the time period as well as with Mozart's own words, Johnson debunks these misconceptions and instills a bold and invigorating portrait of the man, one that reveals him to be highly energetic, devoutly religious, and, for the most part, happy and healthy.
With the bracing, animated style he's known for, Johnson offers here a superbly fresh examination of Mozart and his wondrous music. In this latest biography, as always, 'it's a pleasure to sit around the gently crackling fire that is Johnson's mind' (The New York Times).
Praise for Paul Johnson
'Johnson brings to his subject a vitality that can't be matched.' The New York Times
'Frequently surprises, even startles, us with new views of past events and fresh looks at the characters of the chief world movers and shakers in politics, the military, economics, science, religion, and philosophy.' The Wall Street Journal
'Paul Johnson . . . is a historian at the top of his game. His judgments are sure. His historical range is sweeping. His storytelling is crisp and his writing elegant.' The Oregonian
'His zesty, irreverent narratives teach more history to more people than all the post-modernist theorists, highbrow critics and dons put together.' Times Literary Supplement
'Johnson is a brilliant writer, fluent, precise, crisp, and in full command of the music or words.' The Baltimore Sun
What people are saying - Write a review
Review: MozartUser Review - Douglas Wilson - Goodreads
This was a quick and enjoyable read. Mozart was a phenomenal genius, and this short book -- short just like Mozart's life -- gives a marvelous sense of that genius. For those who don't know much about ... Read full review
Review: MozartUser Review - Richard Epstein - Goodreads
Short, but disappointing. Ostensibly a biography of Mozart, its real purpose is to display how much Johnson knows about music. It's a less interesting subject than Mozart's life. Read full review