The last movement in our trio of new books approaches the genius of Mozart most closely. Julian Rushton's Mozart arrives as the latest entry in the Master Musicians series from Oxford University Press (edited by Stanley Sadie!), but this set of volumes could just as accurately have been named The Master Biographers. Rushton has pulled off something as brilliant as it is implausible: a perfectly judicious account of the life of the composer, informed by the latest historical research, wedded to an array of original insights into Mozart's music, genre by genre, piece by piece, detail by breathtaking detail and all this in less than 300 pages of scintillating text and spot-on musical examples. Rushton is the ideal cicerone to Mozart's music, trusting (as Mozart himself does) our intelligence and fellow feeling, moving from one idea to the next with unfailing good sense and humor. In a thrilling chapter called The Land of the Clavier, Rushton asks how the solo piano of a Mozart concerto can impose itself on such a plethora of ideas. The wonder-struck reader of Rushton's book may well find herself asking the very same question about the author.
As long as music exists, there will always be a company of individuals a sort of Masonic fellowship of Mozart to whom this composer's works are as nourishing as spring rain, as indispensable as breath, as mysterious as love. To those fortunate Mozartians, a 250th birthday celebration, with all its glamour, is purely redundant, for every day of living with Mozart's miraculous music is a festival, every note of it an immeasurable gift. Michael Alec Rose is a composer and professor at Vanderbilt University, where he teaches a course on Mozart.