Exemplary ... Mackie’s book nicely balances the proper spiritual astonishment with the proper cultural curiosity, as he goes about chronicling Mozart’s life through a series of celebrated work ... I wasn’t always convinced by Mackie’s claims, or always able to hear exactly what he describes ... But at his best Mackie is a sensitive and highly intelligent appraiser of musical form, with a gift for analyzing Mozart’s music as the dynamic enactment—rather than the simple expression—of larger cultural and biographical energies.
Erudite, ambitious and elegantly written ... Mackie’s assertions about the ways Mozart’s identification with his era come through in the music are intriguing and insightful, even when overly sweeping and, at times, too speculative ... It’s through detailed, lengthy, wide-ranging descriptions of Mozart’s music that Mackie conveys his ideas, and structures the book. He takes on a sizable number of works ... Though eschewing a chronological narrative, Mackie offers perceptive portraits of Mozart’s intimates, colleagues and competitors ... For all the allure of Mackie’s writing, he’s sometimes so bent on pressing his points that he turns redundant and strains his language ... In his encompassing, literary approach Mackie sometimes overreaches. But every piece he discusses I know well, and the book gave me much to think about.
He demonstrates persuasively—and passionately—how the nuances of a Mozart score don’t merely reflect but embody the central concerns of biography and history ... Mozart aficionados may be disappointed that Mr. Mackie gives relatively short shrift to such major achievements as the minor-mode piano concertos and the world-embracing late string quintets ... Essential to Mr. Mackie’s conception of 'motion' is humor, a quality as pervasive in Mozart’s music as in his personality ... Passages tempt me to put down the book and just listen to the music—Mozart’s and Prince’s, comparatively—which might be just what Mr. Mackie would advise ... Eloquent.