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Mozart, The Man Revealed
by John Suchet
Publ. 2021, 345 pp, paperback
Elliott and Thompson Ltd

Some people may have heard of John Suchet because he is the brother of David Suchet, celebrated stage and screen actor, particularly famous for his creation on TV of Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot. But John Suchet is a household name in his own right, especially for classical music lovers. Currently he presents The Classic FM Concert with John Suchet, Monday to Friday, from 8 to 10 p.m. on Classic FM radio. Before turning to classical music, John Suchet was a well-known journalist and newscaster. Over a period of nearly twenty years, he regularly presented the ITN News at Ten and other news bulletins. He is also the author of many books and his series on some of the great composers are greatly acclaimed. The present book, Mozart, The Man Revealed, is part of the run. It was first published in 2016 also by Elliott and Thompson Ltd. The current edition, on paperback for the first time, was launched on 21st January this year.

As John Suchet says himself in his acknowledgements to this book, many biographies have been written about Mozart, a fact he pointed out to Managing Editor of Classic FM, Sam Jackson, when he asked him to write the book. Apparently Jackson wanted ‘a new account of the composer’s life, written in an accessible and readable style,’ that would appeal to Classic FM’s five and a half million listeners. Personally, I believe John Suchet fully achieved and actually exceeded this goal.

Mozart, The Man Revealed is indeed written in a readable and accessible style but it is much more than that. Suchet writes in a fluent, eloquent manner; the words effortlessly flowing from concept to page. His descriptions are vivid, lively and the narration of little episodes in Mozart’s life is bright, expressive and animated. Mozart the little boy, the teenager and later the man emerge lifelike and real in front of us, as if we, the readers, were watching his life and genius unravel before our very eyes. There were passages in the book where I felt I was there, a witness to Mozart’s prowess as a player and his ingenuity as a composer. I could almost listen to his laugh, to his joy and his amazing music making. But Suchet also conveys the heart-breaking, sad moments intensely, causing a lump in the throat or a tear in the eyes.

John Suchet’s command of the language is, as expected, distinguished and impressive. He uses vivid images, captivating episodes and very effective punctuation to engage the reader and keeping one hooked, wanting to know more and discover what comes next even if one already knows most of the story. His research is impeccable and detailed. The book is structured in clear, chronological chapters and while it deals with Mozart’s incredible achievements, compositions and immensely, unusual talent, it also tells us about his sunny disposition, joyful personality, his silliness and sense of humour, and his commitment to music in a simple, elegant and charming manner.

Suchet acknowledges his editors at the end of the book – well-deserved praise, as the editing work is exceptional – and how indebted he is to other authors, in particular Robert Spaethling and Jane Glover. Spaethling’s Mozart’s Letters, Mozart’s Life, is without a doubt the best ever translation into English of the composer’s missives; Glover’s book, Mozart’s Women, is memorable for different reasons. It’s beautifully written and Glover took a different approach, telling the composer’s story from the perspective of the women in his life, as for example his sister Nannerl. Anyone who loves or is interested in Mozart should read these books. I would now also add Suchet’s present biography of the composer to this short list.

Mozart is one of my favourite composers whose music I find comforting, jubilant, cheerful, sublime, energetic, moving or sad all at the same time. He is my composer of choice if I need a boost or a heart-warming moment. John Suchet’s book and ‘on location’ approach, in a manner of speaking, at times launches similar feelings. I found it captivating from the first page. It gives the reader a gratifying experience in a ‘user-friendly’ but still beautiful language. Mozart lovers in particular will love this, but so too should ‘bookworms’ in general.
 
Margarida Mota-Bull
 
(Margarida writes more than just reviews, check it online at http://www.flowingprose.com/)



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