From Publishers Weekly
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.)
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Sadie, editor of that Everest of musical scholarship, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians,
died on March 21, 2005, leaving incomplete a massive biography of that musical Hillary, Mozart. He had finished the first volume, whose 2005 publication makes it the first splash in what may be a tidal wave of Mozart tomes in response to the 250th anniversary of the composer's birth. It is elegant, precise, and highly readable. Each chapter first reports the events of Mozart's life, then analytically reviews his compositions during the period covered. Sadie quotes extensively from father Leopold's letters written while the family toured its two astonishing children (Mozart's sister, Nannerl, was a precocious keyboard player) as well as from eyewitnesses of their performances and Nannerl's much later recollections--all of this is delicious reading in itself. Sadie's music discussions use only commonly defined terms, and his tracing of borrowings and influences is gratifyingly diligent. In short, this is the rare scholarly work fully accessible by the interested common reader. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved