Informative, educational, entertaining, breathtaking, moving and (fill in your favourite superlative here!) What an absolutely brilliant use of the audio book medium to combine a book and music into a single format.
We have a wonderfully narrated (and extremely well acted) story of Mozart as a man - the genius that was apparent as early as the tender age of 4; the ruthless, indeed heartbreaking exploitation of that genius by his father Leopold; the equally heartbreaking rejection of his unconditional love of his sister, Maria Anna (often called "Nannerl"); his astonishing ability to teach himself the violin to a level that most professional musicians would only dream of (but without his parents even being aware that he was doing so); his rather bizarre occupation with scatological humour; his insane ability to compose the most complex masterworks in his head and then, virtually as an afterthought, to commit them to paper only so musicians could actually play them; his slavish love of elegant clothing and a life well beyond his financial means; the influence he felt from Johann Christian Bach, a friend and musical mentor; his friendship with Haydn and his insecure belief that he could never measure up to Haydn's skills as a musician; the political controversy that Mozart courted in his writing of the opera Cosi Fan Tutte; and, of course, the lifelong devotion to his loving wife, Constanze.
Then there was his prolific, almost miraculous output of some of the finest music that the world has ever been granted the opportunity to hear - operas, symphonies, etudes, quartets, sonatas, choral works, chamber music, divertimenti, concerti, masses. Cutting edge music such as a tone poem for 13 wind instruments in seven movements that extended to almost an hour in length defied current convention and re-wrote the musical rule books as to what was acceptable and beautiful. He even wrote music for instruments such as the glass harmonica (invented by Benjamin Franklin) that was beautiful to a degree that the instrument was simply incapable of reproducing. This wonderful little audio book is absolutely chock-a-block full of samples of music - short enough and abundant enough to give you an almost dizzying sense of the scope of Mozart's work, yet long enough to leave you with a smile on your face and a toe-tapping sense of musical satisfaction.
If anyone had asked me who my favourite classical composer was before I listened to "The Life and Works of Mozart", I would have readily answered that Mozart was my man. But now ... this brilliant audio work has made me painfully aware that I have only begun to scratch the surface of Mozart's repertoire. I've got an enjoyable bit of work in front of me to delve deeper into my favourite composer's music!
I must say I'm looking forward to more CDs in this series! Goodness knows there are lots to choose from - Haydn, Chopin, Bach, Liszt, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Schubert and more! I'm thrilled to have discovered such a gem.
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