Mozart: The Early Years, 1756–1781

Stanley Sadie, Author, Neal Zaslaw, Foreword by . Norton $35 (644p) ISBN 978-0-393-06112-3

More a biography of Mozart's music than a study of the man himself, Sadie's final opus—he died this year after publishing some 30 books—should delight musicologists but puzzle general readers. Not only is the music Sadie's primary interest, he does not believe it reveals anything, necessarily, about its composer. Indeed, he reminds readers not to impose contemporary values on Mozart's era. "Romantic eyes," for example, might see certain minor-key compositions as expressions of Mozart's grief over his mother's death, but Sadie argues that there's "no real reason to imagine that he used his music as [a] vehicle for the expression of his own personal feelings." Likewise, modern critics expect to see a certain type of progress in Mozart's oeuvre, with subsequent works building and elaborating former ones, in ways alien to Mozart on his contemporaries. Sadie is deft at situating various styles of musical composition in their cultural context: preferences for serious vs. comic opera, shorter vs. longer works, ecclesiastical vs. lay sponsorship, etc. But Sadie's real forte is his skill at dissecting musical composition—breaking it down to its constituent elements to understand its power—which is why this volume is indispensable for serious scholars, and mostly unreadable by everyone else. Illus. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/24/2005
Release date: 12/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-670-49198-8
Paperback - 644 pages - 978-0-19-921475-4
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