Do all great musicians die young, and was Mozart the first of the mould for the modern superstar?
What do Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobayne, Amy Winehouse, Bob Marley, John Lennon, and Mozart have in common besides their iconic music?
All of these famous musicians died young. Now for the trivia fans amongst you, many of the names on that list are part of the notorious ‘27 club’. That is musicians who died at the age of 27. Only Bob Marley and John Lennon outlived Mozart who died at the relatively tender age of 35. Marley left us at 36, and Lennon just about made it to 40.
There can be a fascination with the premature deaths of musicians, whether they are simply souls that burn too bright for too short a time. Mozart was really the first musical superstar, he made the mould that so many other musical geniuses would follow in right up until the present day. This is true with regards to his death, but also in so many respects with his life.
Paul Johnson in his new book “Mozart: a life” avoids this pitfall of preoccupation on early death. Instead of worrying about how many more masterpieces we should have seen from Mozart, Johnson focuses on quite how jam-packed his 30 years of composing (age 5 until 35) really were. As Johnson observes in his first chapter, Lizst once said: “Mozart composed more bars of music than a trained copyist could write in a lifetime.”
Many composers only come into their musical maturity by their 30s or later, it’s widely accepted Mozart managed this feat by the age of 10. And we are grateful for it today, because he started so young, we now have a brilliantly full canon of his works. What’s more, we have life to understand his work by, a life that Johnson masterfully unveils in this book. As you’ll discover from this review, I challenge that anyone who reads this book will be able to listen to Mozart in quite the same way as they did before...
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