It is a common article of faith that Mozart composed the most beautiful music we can know. But few of us ask why. Why does the beautiful in Mozart stand apart, as though untouched by human hands? At the same time, why does it inspire intimacy rather than distant admiration, love rather than awe? And how does Mozart's music create and sustain its buoyant and ever-renewable effects? In Mozart's Grace, Scott Burnham probes a treasury of passages from many different genres of Mozart's music, listening always for the qualities of Mozartean beauty: beauty held in suspension; beauty placed in motion; beauty as the uncanny threshold of another dimension, whether inwardly profound or outwardly transcendent; and beauty as a time-stopping, weightless suffusion that comes on like an act of grace.
Throughout the book, Burnham engages musical issues such as sonority, texture, line, harmony, dissonance, and timing, and aspects of large-scale form such as thematic returns, retransitions, and endings. Vividly describing a range of musical effects, Burnham connects the ways and means of Mozart's music to other domains of human significance, including expression, intimation, interiority, innocence, melancholy, irony, and renewal. We follow Mozart from grace to grace, and discover what his music can teach us about beauty and its relation to the human spirit. The result is a newly inflected view of our perennial attraction to Mozart's music, presented in a way that will speak to musicians and music lovers alike.
Scott Burnham is the Scheide Professor of Music History at Princeton University. His books include Beethoven Hero (Princeton) and Sounding Values.
"Here is analysis and commentary written with considerable enthusiasm and affection. . . . Mozart's Grace is written with great fervour and yes, grace, together with a deep love of Mozart's music."--Classical Music Magazine
"The premise: identify some of the best bits in Mozart's works, then discover why they succeed so well. The idea is so starkly simple that one could expect a puerile result. However, Burnham, an eminent teacher, writer, and Mozartean, produces something rather wonderful. . . . [Mozart's Grace] is a book that does justice to its subject matter."--Choice
"This book has only deepened my admiration for its author."--Leo Black, Musical Times
"Mozart's Grace is written with great fervor and yes, grace, together with a deep love of Mozart's music. In these tough economic times one is heartened to see the publication of such a book."--John Robert Brown, Classical Music
"Burnham offers a stirring, erudite, and deeply poetic treatment of around fifty select passages as a culmination of some three decades of thought and discussion. . . . Through delightfully written prose bursting with musical metaphors that extend to all five senses, Scott Burnham argues persuasively for why we relentlessly submit ourselves to Mozart."--Steven D. Mathews, Notes
"[Burnham's] writing, sentence by sentence, is clear as air yet shimmers with revelatory understanding of the effects that Mozart's music makes on the listener, illustrating and supporting his discoveries with penetrating and meticulous explication of details in the musical examples. In doing so he offers some of the most sensitive, nuanced, perceptive, and eloquent commentary about music (of any kind) I've read."--American Record Guide
Table of Contents:
I Beauty and Grace 7
II Thresholds 37
III Grace and Renewal 117
Knowing Innocence 165
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Scott Burnham: