Mozart's Symphonies: Context, Performance Practice, Reception (Clarendon Paperbacks) Paperback – 19 Oct 1995
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one must acknowledge its essential contribution to Mozart scholarship and its mass of information brought under control and made available to those whose only access is to English-language publications (Music and Letters)
[Zaslaw's] command of the material and its context, in the broadest sense, historical and theoretical, is so grandly magisterial that his views could not but have been enlightening ... there is much to be grateful for in a book that is bound to be a cornerstone of Mozart scholarship for many decades and a starting-point for any future work. (Early Music)
magnificent and massive volume ... a profound, elegant, beautifully produced study of an age, its sociology, aesthetics, musical theory and practice. One does not know whether to admire more the judicious and perceptive analysis of the music or the thoroughness, originality and clarity of the presentation of the context in which the works came into being and were first performed.
A challenging, stylish and uncommonly useful book ... a valuable and attractively presented study of The Mozart-Da Ponte Operas. This is a fine book. (Peter Branscombe, Austrian Studies, II)
this may be the most important single volume may be the most important single volume on the composer to appear since the latest revision of the Köchel catalogue in 1964 ... Zaslaw demonstrates a masterful command of the primary and secondary literature, musical and iconographic sources. (Notes, September 1992)
These sometimes monumental works are destined to give us a knowledge of Mozart which far exceeds that of any other composer in terms of precise detail. It is in that spirit that Professor Zaslaw's impressive study of Mozart's symphonic oeuvre must be seen...Professor Zaslaw has done an admirable and exhaustive job on a subjest that will serve scholars for years to come. Here, for the first time, all of Mozart's syphonic works are analysed and put into perspective. While not everyone will agree with the conclusions or the approach, it is clear that the work will provide the solid foundation for future research into Mozart's sysmphonies for the foreseeable future. Professor Zaslaw should commended for undertaking such a daunting task, and his work is to behighly recommended. (Bertil Van Boer, Journal of Musicological Research, Vol 12, 1992)
One welcomes with open arms such a study as Neal Zaslaw's "Mozart's Symphonies", not only for its substance but also for the clarity and wit of its presentation...all of what Zaslaw has to say, has obviously been thought through with logic, analysed, pondered, and organized in such a manner that his delivery of the vast material remains unencumbered and clear...It is well enough researched, written and edited not only to become a standard in every performing musician's and musicologist's library but also to serve as model for genre studies that have yet to be written. (Faye Ferguson, Mozart-Jahrbuch, August 1993)
From the Author
Everything you wanted to know about Mozart's symphonies.
Gives full particulars of 99 symphonies attributed to Mozart, more than 60 of which are by him. Includes information on Mozart's symphonic activities in Salzburg, London, Holland, France, Switzerland, Bavaria, Vienna, Italy, Mannheim and Paris; as well as chapters on Performance Practice and Meanings for Mozart's Symphonies.
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Top Customer Reviews
Secondly about the particular sale. The book arrived in good time and in good condition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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!
Zaslaw is no mean academic and his scholarship cannot be impugned easily. Everything you wanted to know about the nuts and bolts of Mozart's symphonies is here in clear, precise language. His approach is systematic and thorough. The real tour de force here is Zaslaw's demolition of K 16a, the so-called Odense Symphony in A Minor. The incipit was known from an old Breitkopf and Hartel catalogue - and it was attributed to Mozart in the same publication. The symphony went missing for nearly two centuries, only to surface in the early 1980s. It was trumpeted as being from the hands of the (young) Master. With greater patience and acuity, Zaslaw compares its tonal structure with Mozart's three bona fide symphonies in a minor key - K 111, K 183 & K 550. The conclusion is inescapable: fine work as it is, it was not written by Wolfgang. Game over.
The main weakness of this book is simple: it's as dry as dust. It could almost be a car-manual. Sure, the Saint-Fox alternative from the 1930s has more orchids to its name than the Chelsea Flower Show but at least it attempts to fathom out the significance of these works. In contrast, HC Robbins Landon magisterially walks the line between facts and meaning in his Haydn at Eszterhaza, 1766-1790 (Haydn : Chronicle and Works); he need not fear the advent of new scholarship as he is operating in a different dynamic. Likewise, Einstein might be outdated on scholarly grounds but he continues to illuminate Mozart in a way that Zaslaw abjectly fails to do so (Mozart: His Character, His Work (Galaxy Books)). Maynard Solomon gleefully submits Mozart to the Freudian sausage-machine but again, one walks away with new insights - and he writes so well (Mozart: A Life).
One does not want egotism to intrude in works such as this; even so, all I can predicate of Zaslaw from this tome is that he probably has a beard and a snappy dresser he ain't. That's how depersonalised and dessicated this survey is.
So yes - tick, this is useful enough even if it will not leave you aglow and afire with love of Mozart.
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