'Mozart, Haydn, and Early Beethoven, 1781–1802,' by Daniel Heartz (W.W. Norton, $75)
Offers a well-rounded perspective on each composer
This book marks the third and final title in an impressive three-volume work on Western art music in the Classical era. The two earlier volumes, Haydn, Mozart, and the Viennese School, 1740–1780 and Music in European Capitals: The Galant Style, 1720–1780, are thorough chronicles of prominent 18th-century composers, institutions, cities, and events that influenced this great music. This third volume offers an exciting look at the lives of three great composers in and around Vienna during critical points in their careers.
The author, Daniel Heartz, a retired University of California–Berkeley professor, has garnered many awards and honors, including two Guggenheim Fellowships. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost scholars of 18th-century music and spent 40 years researching and writing these authoritative volumes.
His writing shifts effortlessly between biography, musical analysis, and historical narrative, and offers a well-rounded perspective on the composers’ personalities and their works.
Mozart, Haydn, and Early Beethoven examines the magnificent pinnacle of the high Classical style, during the last two decades of the 18th century. A string of influential musical masterpieces were written during this time: Mozart composes his most famous operas and instrumental works; Haydn produces his best symphonies, string quartets, masses, and oratorios; and a young Beethoven writes his early sonatas, first two symphonies, and later his revolutionary third symphony, which is considered by many to be the conclusion of the Classical Era of Western music.
This final volume is peppered with 163 musical examples, 45 illustrations, and numerous excerpts from letters and writings of people who were close to the composers. The author’s analysis of the musical works is technical, in-depth, and well placed in historical and stylistic context.
At 846 pages, the rich, informative text is an undertaking to read, but it is an invaluable reference work and a welcome addition to the field of historical Classical-music writings.