Course Description

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Genius at Work

NOTE :: Originally a Barnes U Noble University online course I completed Dec. 2001, immediately after the 9-11 tragedy.

Visit today’s: Barnes & – B&N Book Clubs


Was Mozart the greatest genius and prodigy in history? How accurate is his portrayal in Amadeus? Why does his music have such universal appeal? In his highly acclaimed biography, Maynard Solomon details Mozart’s life through a revealing selection of Mozart’s letters and a close study of Mozart’s music. In this course we’ll use Solomon’s text to gain insight into Mozart’s life and relationships with others, especially his father, and examine many of the myths that surrounded Mozart since his death.


  • Explore the genius of Mozart as seen not only in his music, but also as revealed in excerpts from his letters
  • Trace the beginnings of Mozart’s musical development and activities, especially through the letters of his father, Leopold
  • Examine some of Mozart’s earliest compositions and study several of his greatest masterpieces, including The Marriage of Figaro, his last symphony (the “Jupiter”), and his unfinished Requiem
  • Learn about Vienna and the Habsburg Empire in the eighteenth century under the rule of Maria Theresa and Joseph II, and the Enlightenment, which shaped not only Mozart’s music but also led to the French and American revolutions
  • Understand why Mozart and his music continue to attract listeners more than 200 years after his death
  • Consider whether or not there really is a “Mozart effect”

Course Materials:

clip_image001Mozart: A Life

In this first full-scale biography since the 1950s, esteemed biographer Maynard Solomon draws on a half-century of new information to provide an in-depth account of Mozart’s family life, his passions, and his personality.

Additional Materials:

clip_image003Mozart’s Letters, Mozart’s Life

A collection of Mozart’s letters written over a period of 22 years from his teenage years spent in Italy to his deathbed in Vienna. In order to remain faithful to the original text, Spaethling’s translation preserves spelling mistakes. An intimate and revealing selection with some surprises.

clip_image0051791: Mozart’s Last Year

The last month of the year 1791 witnessed what H.C. Robbins Landon calls “the greatest tragedy in the history of music”: the premature death of the thirty-five-year-old Mozart. Surrounded by enigma and intrigue, allegations of poisoning, and sexual scandal, this event continues to grip the popular imagination today — as was demonstrated by the astonishing success of the play and movie Amadeus. Curious and controversial as the circumstances of Mozart’s death are, the truth has been obscured by accumulated layers of mythology.

clip_image007The Compleat Mozart: A Guide to the Musical Works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

In assembling and editing this collection of essays, it was Mozart specialist Neal Zaslaw’s wish to share with a broad audience some of the enjoyment and sense of discovery he has experienced in studying, teaching, writing about, and performing Mozart’s music. In particular, this book will have served a worthy purpose if it encourages the reader to explore some of the riches to be discovered when one ventures off the straight and narrow path represented by the fewer than one hundred Mozart works found in the regular concert and opera repertory today.