Monday, March 23, 2015

Jennius Reads: About Mozart

Picture credit:
At what point does one say that there are enough books about a fascinating person from the past? 200+ years after his death, are there enough books about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? Apparently not, for in 2013, Mozart: A Life by Paul Johnson was published, and I am not complaining.

It was another day of hurrying around the public library, looking for study material for a class, hoping to beat the parking meter time. Building up my muscles by lugging around a hefty stack of already 10+ books that may or may not pertain to class, I wanted to pick out a “for fun” read. Taking a quick glance at the music section, Mozart came into mind. I found the biography subsection and scanned the spines.

I think I chose historian Paul Johnson’s book against just one other. Johnson has other biographies under his belt, like ones on Churchill and Socrates, as well as titles of history subjects, and I was intrigued that Mozart… was quite a recent title.

Johnson ordered the chapters for 5 main periods of Mozart’s life that cover his early years, proficiency with instruments, married life, his contributions particular to opera, and the last years of his life. Woven throughout all of it were comments and mentions of Mozart’s many works as they related to the subject at hand, yet seamlessly so that the reading journey was comfortable while fully satisfied.

One of the interesting discoveries for me was that his family wrote many and detailed letters, a practice which is wonderful for a biographer of such a person. This was the first Mozart biography I had ever read; I didn’t know what I expected to find and so it was refreshing to learn that not only was Mozart endowed with musical talents, but that he also knew a great deal about the matter and could write about his writing of music, what he was working on, trying out, intended, etc.

I also got the sense that though a genius, Mozart was not “mad” in the way that one might think is necessary to or accompanies genius. People liked him. He was passionate but didn’t make others “pay” to be around his gifting, nor was he narrow-minded about what music (or his music) must be. That his gifting came with such prolific breadth and depth is just… what word is there… astounding – that will have to do.

Mozart: A Life was an enjoyable read – I recommend it, about a 10/10 for the classical music or biography enthusiast (having played the clarinet in the high school symphonic wind ensemble, I have a special fondness for Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major, K. 622). It can be read in a matter of hours. Johnson certainly does his research while infusing his own passion for the subject in the writing.

*It has been many, many years since I have written a book report of sorts – I hope this post did not offend. :)