Review Of "Mozart: A Cultural Biography" By R. W. Gutman

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This is a clearly and engagingly written book on Mozart's life and works, the former receiving much greater scrutiny. Every known detail of the composer's life is poured over and placed appropriately in its historical, social, or aesthetic context. One encounters this sort of relaxed yet ferocious learnedness only rarely in musicological writing, and readers should not allow themselves to be put off by the book's seemingly daunting length. Although Gutman shows extensive knowledge of the massive secondary literature on Mozart, with a few exceptions he specifically cites only Mozart family letters and others' literary quotations (in an easily missed appendix entitled "Source Notes"). His study nicely complements the equally lengthy and learned but radically different psychological biography by Maynard Solomon, Mozart: A Life (1995), and the much briefer, excellent cultural study by John Rosselli, The Life of Mozart (CH, Nov'98). Gutman's volume differs further from these, arguably unjustly, in its ever-positive assessment of Mozart's personal character. This is the ultimate Mozart lover's biography, and as such it is unlikely to be surpassed. All collections.


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