This tome is intended as the follow-up and completion of the project Daniel Heartz begun with "Haydn, Mozart and the Viennese School – 1740-1780". Together with his other book "Music in European Capitals – 1720-1780" they form a very thorough and extremely impressive survey of the Galant and classical styles. All of these books are uniformly excellent in their content, and I would like to focus on the one unfortunate point which detracts a star from my final rating.
My main gripe with this book, and the reason why I cannot give it five stars, is that it is narrower in scope than its predecessor. The reason for this is that the former gave brief but very interesting surveys of smaller names, such as Reutter, Tuma, Monn, Birck, Wagenseil, Gassmann, Salieri, Dittersdorf, Wanhal, Hofmann, Ordonez, Albrechtsberger and Steffan, as well as a chapter on Gluck's activities in Vienna, which is followed up in "Music in European Capitals", which charts his career after he moved to Paris. Together, these names are a decent introduction to the generation of Haydn, as well as the one immediately preceding it. Even though some details in these presentations have been superseded, they are still very useful, and were my introduction to every one of them, save Gluck.
It is therefore somewhat disappointing to observe that Heartz focuses solely on the three major classics. There are things in the first book that seems to indicate that he had originally planned otherwise: The story of Salieri is ended quickly after 1780, and begs for a continuation, and no music by Wanhal from after ca. 1783 is considered. Both of these men had long enough careers to justify a chapter in this book, and certainly Heartz would have had much interesting to say of their later careers, as well as some of Mozart's contemporaries and pupils, such as Eybler and Süßmayr. Musicology has traditionally been more interested in those preceding the great classics rather than their contemporaries and less advanced followers, which is a shame, since some of them were very fine. Heartz' first book was presented a much-needed corrective for the intelligent lay reader, and I was sorely disappointed to see that this approach had not been followed up here. There are good reasons for this: In general, less has been written about these composers, and the book is about as long as the first one in any case. I still think it is a shame, though.
What is in the book, however, is uniformly excellent. As the title promises, it tracks the careers of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven through the years 1781-1802, with ample biographical data and discussion of musical details. Some musical skill is needed to appreciate the latter, but it should be well within the grasp of readers with their sight-reading basics in order.