Marrying Mozart
Stephanie Cowell
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Marrying Mozart
Stephanie Cowell
368 pages
December 2004
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Although the genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is acknowledged in his youth, success does not come easily but follows years of borderline poverty and a struggle to achieve recognition in the musical world. The female roles in his compositions are noted for their impressive depth and complexity; in Marrying Mozart, the author posits that four young women -- Josefa, Aloysia, Constanze and Sofia Weber -- are the source of his intimate comprehension of the female constitution.

In an auspicious introduction, Mozart is introduced to the Weber sisters in Mannheim in 1777 at one of their father’s Thursday evening musical salons. However, Frau Weber already has great plans for her daughters, listing marriage prospects in a leather journal she keeps hidden. Equally adamant is Mozart’s mother, who accompanies her son on his travels to attract potential sponsors for his musical career.

Thoroughly at home in the happy, if poor, Weber home, Mozart is enthralled with the girls, falling deeply in love with one of them. Yet fortune intervenes as each mother has a particular agenda for the family fortunes. Mozart is persuaded by his mother to attend to family obligations, forfeiting a singing tour with Josefa and Aloysia and delaying his betrothal in order to travel to Paris in pursuit of opportunity.

During this time, both families are struck by tragedy and left in dire financial straits. Grieving the loss of his beloved mother, Mozart returns to the bosom of the also-bereaved Weber family, who have lost their father, moving from Mannheim to Munich. Fate is unkind; Mozart and the girls barely eke out an existence. Mozart is forced by circumstance to return to Salzburg, finding a position with his father’s employer, a soul-numbing experience with no hope of career advancement. To Mozart’s credit and the world’s benefit, the musical prodigy is unable to stifle his creativity and heads for Vienna, the hub of musical creativity.

Everything has changed for the aggrieved Mozart. His marriage troth broken, unable to provide beyond a beggarly existence and his dreams impossible, he is driven by genius, composing obsessively. The lives of the Weber girls have fragmented, as well. Out of all of them, only Aloysia has gotten a paid position, singing in Vienna, and Josefa plays minor parts in some of the productions. To keep a roof over their heads, Frau Weber runs a boarding house and dominates the lives of the younger sisters, still scheming for well-placed marriages. The girls are desperately unhappy in a household rapidly spinning out of control.

This exquisite novel is a joy to read, the historical detail beautifully rendered. Each girl’s goals, aspirations and frustrations are fully realized, as each vainly attempts to please a mother who will not be satisfied. Regardless of Josefa and Aloysia’s musical talents, the mean days of poverty are clearly etched on all of them. Yet Mozart is indefatigable in the face of constant failure. Certainly, by his nature, Mozart is driven to succeed, but the four sisters, one of whom he finally marries, profoundly affect his understanding and appreciation of the opposite sex.

As they all work diligently to survive, even excel, in an unfriendly world, their lives are enhanced by their early connections and warm memories of youthful exuberance. With its rich emotional layers, this love story of four girls and one man is a rare pleasure, a peek into a European landscape that birthed one of our greatest composers and the women he loved.

Click here for Luan Gaines' interview with Marrying Mozart author Stephanie Cowell

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2004

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