Very few books about music provide much in the way of flair. Not so Patrick Mackie’s Mozart in Motion, a giddy study of a familiar figure. Considering the great man’s music within the vortex of late 18th-century Europe, Mackie’s cross-cultural book refuses to see its subject in isolation.
A poet, commentator and marked stylist, Mackie launches his narrative with a pacey report on the premiere of Don Giovanni in Prague in 1787. Immediately, you hear the opera’s famous doom-laden chords. It’s a model chapter, where vivid writing and sophisticated narrative methods play well.
Throughout this deftly structured book – chronological in the main, though dipping here to call on Rousseau, there to invoke Kant – Mozart’s works for the theatre fare best, Mackie’s literary perspicacity matching his skill for musical description. The 1781 opera Idomeneo, now often overlooked, provides a case in