The Mozart Myths: A Critical Reassessment

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This book is an ambitious attempt to separate what is actually known (and can be known) about Mozart from the many myths and legends that have grown up about his life, character, and death. It subjects individual myths to critical and scholarly scrutiny—weighing the evidence on which it is based, and critically assessing the reliability of that evidence.

The author first considers the question of Mozart's death in 1791 at the age of 35, a subject that intrigued his contemporaries and has continued to fascinate posterity. No other aspect of Mozart's life has engendered so many dramatic and colorful myths. The stage play and movie Amadeus incorporated virtually all these myths and, indeed, most of the other myths associated with Mozart.

In the remainder of this book, the author treats in similar fashion other legends relating to Mozart's alleged maturity, drinking, extravagance, unreliability, womanizing, and professional failure. There is also much material on the nature of Mozart's genius, the influence of Freemasonry on his work, and the value of his last compositions. The book is illustrated with 8 pages of halftones and line drawings.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A most enjoyable book. Stafford withstands all temptations to be either cranky or gloating as debunkers too often are. He has written a skillfully researched and civilized book that seems a model of its kind. Mozart badly needs this type of research, especially in his role as culture hero. As a debunking book it remains refreshingly concrete, and I learned immense amounts from it. I believe that Stafford's method would be useful for rethinking the reputations of other figures—not simply musicians, but writers and artists as well."
—Herbert Lindenberger
,Stanford University
Library Journal
Stafford philosophy, history of ideas, Huddersfield Polytechnic, England has written a fascinating, well-documented review of the many popular stories about Mozart, concentrating especially on the circumstances surrounding his death. He analyzes the sources of the stories' information and assesses the credibility of the various witnesses, carefully sorting out truth from misunderstanding, gossip, rumor, and lies. Mozart emerges as a far more complex person than biographers often portray him. While not casual reading, this involved and detailed study of documents, motives, and the convoluted reasoning behind the Mozart myths is required reading for the devoted Mozart fan. For large public and academic music collections.-- Timothy J. McGee, Univ. of Toronto
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804722223
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1993
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 300
  • Sales rank: 816,779
  • Product dimensions: 5.45 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

William Stafford is Principal Lecturer in Philosophy and the History of Ideas at Huddersfield Polytechnic, in England.
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