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A Listener's Companion
Scarecrow Press Inc
The life of Mozart is an oft-told tale. One could ask whether anything new can be added. Well, yes it can, and here it is. Skilfully, without descending to crude simplicity or creating an anachronistic narrative, David Schroeder introduces entertaining modern (and sometimes historic) elements to carry the story along. Thus he generates a relevance for the contemporary reader, creating a book that one can recommend, particularly to someone new to Mozart. In the process Schroeder makes the point that Mozart has now saturated popular culture.
Recent references are included by the device of describing a contemporary event that includes a performance of a Mozart work. "You are in New York City on one of the hottest days of the year, 21 August 2012," Schroeder writes. "Happily you will beat the heat during the evening because you have a ticket to hear the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center." Further description of the concert introduces uncomplicated discussion of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, which is on the programme.
At another point Schroeder discusses the difficulty of performing a march on an instrument that has to be played sitting down. He makes this more vivid by referring to the 1969 movie Take the Money and Run, in which Woody Allen happens to be the only cellist in his high school's marching band. You've probably seen it. Allen plays seated, of course. Every ten paces Allen dashes ahead with the cello in one hand, then sits to play until the rest of the band catches up! Indeed, the final chapter of Experiencing Mozart ('From Then to Now') is replete with ways in which outstanding writers, thinkers and film makers have embraced Mozart. Alexander Pushkin began the trend in 1830, when his drama The Stone Guest invoked Don Giovanni. Thirteen years later one of the leading philosophers of the nineteenth century, the Dane Søren Kierkegaard, published his Either/Or, another essay about Mozart and Don Giovanni. Then, just after the turn of the century, George Bernard Shaw brought his own perspective to the same subject in his play Man and Superman of 1903. And, as we all know, the biggest Mozart splash during the twentieth century occurred with the making of the film Amadeus by Milos Forman in 1984, after he had seen Peter Shaffer's play of the same name.
Aimed at non-specialists, the book contains no photographs or musical examples. David Schroeder has nevertheless created an attractive and informative companion.
John Robert Brown
Published in Classical Music magazine, Autumn 2013. Used by kind permission. Reproduction forbidden.