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A Life in Letters (Penguin Classics) Paperback – March 27, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) Austrian composer, widely recognised as one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music. Among his most famous works, with Lorenzo da Ponte as librettist: Le nozze di Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787) Cosi fan tutte (1790), Die Zauberflöte (1791), La clemenza di Tito (1791). Cliff Eisen has published extensively on the life and works of W. A. Mozart, including the New Grove 'Mozart', the edited volumes Mozart Studies (Oxford University Press, 1991), Mozart Studies 2 (Oxford University Press, 1997) and New Mozart Documents (London, 1991). He is general editor of the forthcoming Oxford Companion to Mozart. Stewart Spencer is an authority on German literature and an editor of the journal of the Wagner Society. Barry Millington is the author of the highly acclaimed Master Musicians: Wagner and editor of The Wagner Compendium.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (March 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141441461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141441467
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #481,560 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Macaw Mom on April 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
I must confess I'm still reading this wonderful compilation of correspondence; but I can confidently state that it vividly draws you into the daily lives of Mozart and his family. Ever wonder what day-to-day life was like in Mozart's time? There's no better way to experience it than to read these letters and their descriptions of the mundane and the extraordinary, the aggravations of travel, the rewards (monetary and otherwise) of performing for royalty, and all of the other details that would fascinate anyone who has ever wondered what Mozart's life was really like. Highly, highly recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By znatic on August 24, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Who knew that a primary source would be so much better than any biography? This is a surprisingly fascinating and easy read. The translator does a fantastic job with the letters, even getting one of Mozart's silly poems to rhyme in English. You get the real story told from the point of view of the Mozarts themselves. You really feel bad for Leopold as his rather flighty son traipses around Europe running up debts.

Cons: I know the letters were voluminous, but I wish there were even more letters included here. Maybe they will come out with an unabridged edition. I know the footnotes were difficult to do, as the Mozarts drop tons of names, but I also wish there was more information included on some of the people referenced in the letters.

That said, I highly recommend this.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Arsov on October 19, 2012
Format: Paperback
Now this is what I call impeccable editorial work! With this volume Mr Eisen has done an outstanding job that ought to serve as an example to many an editor. All too often miserable hacks, dressed-up in the editor's prestigious mantle, make a hash of things: see Pico Iyer and the travel writings of Somerset Maugham (Everyman's Library, 2009). But not here, not with Mozart's letters edited by Cliff Eisen.

The editor has supplied this volume with excellent chronology, fascinating biographical essay about Mozart, most helpful "List of Important People" and "Further Reading". The numerous historical "gaps" between the letters are explained in italicized notes of exemplary lucidity and conciseness.

Each and every letter - and there are well over a hundred of them, mostly by Wolfgang but with quite a few additions by Leopold, all in chronological order - is adorned with copious footnotes that clarify all obscure points. Most importantly, these indicate the Koechel numbers (K. or KV) of Mozart's works that are mentioned constantly (often in a most cryptic way, but one can't expect the composer to refer to a catalogue that was compiled some seven decades after his death).

Stewart Spencer is a well-known and highly respected translator from German (witness his complete translation of Wagner's "Ring") and so far as I can judge he has managed to convey Mozart's mercurial personality with a spectacular degree of accuracy.

As it seems Mr Spencer is also responsible, as credited by the editor, for the excellent index apparatus. In addition to a General Index, you can browse the volume by "Principal Correspondents" and "Mozart's Works" (by both genre and Koechel numbers).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By FeetMustFollow on February 7, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What better way to learn about Mozart than from his letters? His father goes from being a stock, domineering patriarch to a very human man, concerned about the well-being of his son and intent on helping the young man to make what he sees as the right decisions--though whether father knows best is up for debate. The letters reveal Europe in the second half of the 18th century. Travels by carriage, bad inns, frightening illnesses. It's fascinating to see the way Mozart's genius is questioned, and how he puts all the arguments of the naysayers to rest when given a chance. We see the famously dirty sense of humor in all members of his family. This wonderful edition of the letters contains brief introductions to various letters, strong footnotes, and a context-setting introduction. The letters themselves allow us an unadulterated view into the lives of one of the greatest composers. This book is well worth the price and your attention.
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