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Mozart at the Gateway to His Fortune

Serving the Emperor, 1788–1791

Christoph Wolff (Author, Harvard University)

Overview | Inside the Book

ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award winner

A fresh look at the life of Mozart during his imperial years by one of the world's leading Mozart scholars.

"I now stand at the gateway to my fortune," Mozart wrote in a letter of 1790. He had entered into the service of Emperor Joseph II of Austria two years earlier as Imperial-Royal Chamber Composer—a salaried appointment with a distinguished title and few obligations. His extraordinary subsequent output, beginning with the three final great symphonies from the summer of 1788, invites a reassessment of this entire period of his life. Readers will gain a new appreciation and understanding of the composer's works from that time without the usual emphasis on his imminent death. The author discusses the major biographical and musical implications of the royal appointment and explores Mozart's "imperial style" on the basis of his major compositions—keyboard,chamber, orchestral, operatic, and sacred—and focuses on the large, unfamiliar works he left incomplete. This new perspective points to an energetic, fresh beginning for the composer and a promising creative and financial future.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • May 2012
  • ISBN 978-0-393-05070-7
  • 5.8 × 8.6 in / 272 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide


Endorsements & Reviews

“I was so excited to read Christoph Wolff’s remarkable new book, which in one fell swoop dispels myths that arose after Mozart’s untimely death. Through his meticulous scholarship, Wolff allows us to reimagine the composer at the apex of his artistic powers and with creative and entrepreneurial plans in place to ensure his continuing artistic output as well as his financial stability. A beloved scholar, Professor Wolff proves his point with revelatory insights that take us into the inner workings of this great composer’s mind.” — Yo-Yo Ma

“Christoph Wolff’s remarkable and splendidly readable book presents a new and welcome picture of Mozart’s final years. Without resorting to polemics, it disposes of myths and misconceptions by offering facts and sound judgment. Wolff is a master of minute scholarly research that comprises the circumstances of Mozart’s life as well as the music itself. Countering the widespread concept of a decline of Mozart’s powers, he perceives his latest works, finished and unfinished, as being the point of a new departure—cruelly curtailed by Mozart’s death. I shall listen to the Magic Flute, the Requiem, the clarinet quintet, and the E-flat masterpieces—string trio and string quintet—with sharpened ears.” — Alfred Brendel

“In this enthralling tale of Mozart’s imperial appointment and his late torrent of compositions, Christoph Wolff argues, with compelling authority, that those musical triumphs—including the Requiem—point not to an autumnal resignation but toward a propulsive future of complex genius.” — Helen Vendler

“Any book by the eminent scholar Christoph Wolff comes with the guarantee of fresh musical insights and a magisterial command of the sources. His latest book on Mozart is no exception. It will help to demystify and transform our understanding of the composer’s final years.” — Sir John Eliot Gardiner

“For years I’ve been wondering and the question becomes ever more cogent, what puzzling new language Mozart used for his three symphonies and even the Magic Flute. It is a new Mozart, and we cannot simply continue as before. Why? What is it? What does it mean today? To the performer, to the listener? Now I found a helping hand in Christoph Wolff’s unexpectedly novel book. We musicians, used to helping ourselves, gratefully embrace his assistance.” — Nikolaus Harnoncourt

“A truly different and exciting look at the last years of Mozart’s life. I was especially captivated by the last chapter—Mr. Wolff’s penetrating comments on Mozart’s compositional method are illuminating and also somehow make his genius more personal for us.” — Emanuel Ax

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