A thoughtful portrait of the famed composer and the less famous women who inspired his work and served as its greatest vehicles.
Tom Hulce played it right in Amadeus: Wolfie Mozart was a bit silly, devoted to puns, bad jokes and bathroom humor. He also had little-appreciated depths of emotion and intellect, and Jane Glover, a noted conductor of 18th-century music, does a fine job of bringing these out as she drops in to examine his process here and there, as with his deployment of timpani in the Requiem alongside the “Lacrimosa dies illa” dirge, a moment both brilliant and sorrowful. For some reason, Glover reveals, the timpani had frightened Mozart as a child, “together with their constant partners the trumpets… and his life ended, on an unresolved dominant chord.” At least one woman was profoundly affected by his all too premature death (of overwork and lack of sleep, it was said): his young wife Constanze, who tried to catch his illness so that she might die, too. Constanze, who lived to be 80, was perhaps not the most important woman in Mozart’s life; that honor goes to his sister Maria Anna, “Nannerl,” pretty and musically accomplished, who shared with him the “family’s customary lexicon of lavatorial catchphrase.” Other women of importance, to each of whom Glover gives voice, were the talented performers who brought his depiction of ideal womanhood to life: His Susanna (of Figaro), the most ideal of them all, was smart, loyal, funny, “a little vain” and above all strong, dominating every scene she was in. To be sure, Glover suggests, Mozart was fond of strong women, but some of those to whom he gave his heart crumbled before others.
Glover writes fluently and well of Amadeus’s many beloveds, as well as of his tangled life in general.