Neal Zaslaw is well known in the musicology field as a Mozart scholar who often concerns himself with wind instruments. Accordingly, this book is written with a certain level of musical knowledge required. If you are a casual music lover, this is perhaps not the best book for you.
The book looks at all known Mozart symphonies, including those which cannot be authenticated, in chronological order, discussing details of Mozart's life; the circumstances in which the symphony was written; the purpose the symphony was written; some musical choices to be made in performance; form and musical topic; and other items of interest.
The analysis is certainly enlightening and worthwhile, but hardly "exhaustive" as Christopher Wolff claims on the back cover. Perhaps his review tells more of the limits of Mr. Wolff's study of Mozart than it does of the book itself. Such a comment leads me to believe that Wolff has not painstakingly looked at the symphonies of Mozart in great detail. Although, if he is correct, perhaps all of us should just read this book and stop studying Mozart on our own?
Zaslaw frequently refers to the thoughts of other scholars such as de Saint-Foix and Einstein, and in doing so sometimes commits the same cardinal sin that de Saint Foix does - making an assertion with no supporting discussion nor clarity of definition. For example, on p. 237, Zaslaw wrote: "The Finale [of K132] is as French as Mozart's symphonic music ever becomes." Without knowledge of the French style, this is useless. With knowledge of the French style, it is up to the reader to go and convince her/himself what Zaslaw meant by this. Fortunately this type of unexplained assertion doesn't occur often, and there are fairly good discussions of Italian and Viennese styles in the book. Discussion of French national style is more dispersed throughout and less complete.
As in any scholarly book, there are the token archaic latin words and some others which require a dictionary handy, but overall, the vocabulary is not too heavy, and the book reads quickly. I was annoyed, however, when on p. 379 I was driven to my dictionaries to look up the word "punctilious," only to find that the word had been used incorrectly and it should have been "punctual." If you're going to force me to look words up, please use the words correctly! And where was the editor? Come on, I paid $65 for this! (I notice Amazon has raised the price to $95...hmmm...)
I am also sad that in Chapter 11, Zaslaw abandons the form and topical analysis he had done earlier. However, Chapter 13 is definitely a wonderful climax - a look at the meaning of the "Jupiter" symphony. Although everyone knows, and Zaslaw admits, we can never really know what a non-programmatic symphony means unless the composer tells us, this is certainly a fascinating look supported with facts.
All in all, a must have for those interested in Mozart or the Symphony genre in general. Much better than de Saint-Foix!