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Reviewed by:
  • Mozart Handbuch
  • Bertil Van Boer
Mozart Handbuch. Edited by Silke Leopold. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2005. [xii, 719pp. ISBN 3-7618-2021-6. €79.95.] Bibliographical references, indexes.

As 2006 approached, the prospect of another Mozart year following the exhaustive (and possibly exhausting) 1991 bicentennial of the composer's death may have appeared problematic, given that the Neue Mozart Ausgabe is now for all intents and purposes complete, and that new documentation and studies have slowed to a relatively stable stream. But the 250th anniversary of his birth seems an appropriate time to renew interest with festivals and new recordings, as well as revisit the plethora of literature available on Mozart's life, work, and times. It is clear that this weighty tome with essays by ten musicologists is meant to fulfill what has long been missing in the German Mozart literature, a summary overview of the composer's music in brief, accessible (read: quotable) format along the lines of two previous such volumes written in English, H. C. Robbins Landon's The Mozart Compendium (New York: Schirmer Books, 1990) and Neal Zaslaw and William Cowdery's The Compleat Mozart (New York: W. W. Norton, 1990), both of which were published during or just prior to the last Mozart year. In the latter, all of the composer's works, real and questionable, were briefly discussed in succinct referential entries, and in the former, subtitled "A Guide to Mozart's Life and Music," the scope of the discussion was broadened to include essays on context, portraiture, documents, and dissemination and reception of his music. These were provided by a dozen or so of the leading Mozart specialists and include details of description as well as a brief summary of sources.

It is immediately clear upon examination that Landon's somewhat exhaustive Compendium served as the model for Leopold, who no doubt conceived of her tome as a means of providing something similar for German-speaking readers. She excuses this formulaic copying by stating that "balance" is needed with regard to the music (p. xiii), given that "fifteen years later . . . the number of publications may have grown to more than 20,000 titles [all translations by the author]." This in turn has necessitated a re-evaluation of the music that seeks to put it in a more general context than is found in a number of specialized studies. She admits that this is no small task, given the sheer amount of literature available, but her goal—to raise more questions than answers (p. xiii)—seems a daunting task, particularly since she promises to include such ancillary pieces like personal comments, habits, situations in Mozart's life, etc., in order to provide the necessary context. What she does not say is that it was a [End Page 586] team effort, something that Landon expressly states in his "General Readers Guide" up front.

Like Landon, Leopold provides a chronological table of Mozart's life from the beginning, though it is nowhere as extensive or as comprehensive as her model. Interestingly enough, her general introduction consists of several essays on diverse Mozartean topics, ranging from portraiture (descriptions only, no pictures) to Mozart and Freemasonry. These have no connecting theme, but rather comprise a loose set of discussions that make for interesting reading—along the lines of just the very sorts of specialized studies she claims to want to avoid. This is particularly true of her essay on Bach and Handel arrangements, in which she points out their necessity for Mozart's financial well-being, as well as their subsequent influence on the Handel/Bach revivals of the next century (pp. 26–27). At the end of these disparate pieces comes a bibliography in which it is clear that she bases her work solely upon German sources; indeed, none in other languages or any biography newer than Einstein appear. While one might quibble with this approach, it does clearly define her audience, and given the accessibility of her writing intended for a more general, German audience, this does not present a real problem.

Each of the other essays, divided systematically according to genre, is written in equally accessible prose that balances...


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