Book Review: Mozart’s Women - his family, his friends, his music
Author: Jane Glover. New York: Harper Perennial, 2007.
As its title reveals, this book provides a social, psychological, and musical account of the families and friends of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Divided into four sections, Mozart’s Women describes Mozart’s birth family, his own family and in-law’s, the interwoven connection between his personal and musical lives, and what happened to these people after Mozart’s death.
As soon as the extraordinary talents of their two children, Nannerl and Wolfgang, manifested themselves, Leopold and Maria Anna Mozart traveled all over Europe to parade these children’s abilities, establish influential connections, and seek opportunities to elevate their family’s social status.
As Mozart stepped into adulthood, his music continued to play a central part in his emotional, social, and creative lives. His encounters with other musicians not only brought artistic inspiration to his compositions, but also provided him with a supportive social network to help him obtain independence from his domineering father and build his own family.
Throughout his life, Mozart’s personal and musical sides interacted without interruption. His emotional relationships stimulated his compositions and his creative outputs altered the lives of those around him. His sister, sisters-in-law, and friends were dedicatees, performers, and champions of Mozart’s music and left their marks in history as such.
Instead of focusing on the creative genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, this book reconstructs the lives of Mozart’s families and friends and invites us readers to take a journey back in time. Rather than describing the man and his artistic triumph, this narrative gives us an idea of how Mozart came to be what he was and more importantly, the impact of his existence on his immediate families and friends.
Originally, my impression of Mozart the man was someone who expired from overwork and exhaustion. After reading this book, the issue of whether talent is a blessing or a curse – for the man of talent and his family – surfaced again. Is talent an individual AND family investment? Where is the boundary between balance and excess and who is to set it? How can siblings handle the phenomenon of genius in the same family? Parents like Leopold Mozart have been and will always be around. As music teachers and eventual parents, we are responsible for choosing the part we want – or not want – to play in such situations.
For me, this book brought up another issue: creativity despite obstacles, against the odds, and as a personality trait. Since it implies resourcefulness, the ability to solve problems, stepping outside the box, and coming up with the unthought-of, it can be applied to all fields of our life. We can be creative not only in composing music, but also teaching, playing, and listening to music. More than by category, label, and format, this attribute can also be identified by its impact on the quality of our daily life.