A new biography, told through the prism of the women in Mozart's life, focusing initially on his precocious childhood and relationship with his mother, sister and the Weber sisters, one of whom became his wife, and finally concluding with his premature death and the fate of the women who shaped his life.
In real life, this is a collection of three extended essays, written in non-technical terms for the general reader, looking at the role played in Mozart's life, his operas, and his posthumous reputation by a group of extraordinary women, in particular his sister Nannerl, the pianist who inspired all his early keyboard music, and his wife Constanze Weber and her three sisters, all of them highly-talented singers. Lesser parts are played by Mozart's mother (who acted as his business manager on his Paris tour, when his father couldn't leave Salzburg) and by some of the other distinguished singers for whom he wrote parts in his operas.
Glover confesses herself to be a fan of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus and credits Simon Callow with helping her to get started on this book. But she quietly sets aside many of the more romantic myths we cherish about Mozart. Salieri was a personal friend as well as a professional rival, and his mistress Caterina Cavalieri (Constanze, Donna Elvira, the Countess, etc.) was one of the most important singers to work closely with Mozart. In Josef II's Enlightenment Vienna it was not at all the custom to organise splendid funerals and tombstones; the "pauper's grave" story comes from nineteenth-century views of Mozart's death. Count Walsegg-Stuppach's habit of commissioning works anonymously from composers and then passing them off as his own was a standing joke in musical circles, and Mozart was simply playing along with it by describing the count's agent who came with the commission for a Requiem as a "ghostly messenger".
Even Mozart's financial situation wasn't quite as dire as it's usually presented - Constanze had taken things in hand (a little late in the day, admittedly) and spending was under control and a lot of the debts already paid off by the time of Mozart's death. Posthumously, Constanze went back to performing for a while, and showed herself to be a skilled manager of Mozart's reputation, who managed to do well financially out of his manuscripts and biography (left unfinished by her second husband, Georg Nissen, and published under Constanze's control).
I found the account of Mozart's operas to be the most interesting part of the book - this is obviously Glover's bread-and-butter, and she presents interesting practical insights into the way Mozart wrote to take advantage of the particular gifts of the singers he had available to him. And puts his work into context, so that we can see just how radical and innovative he was as a composer. Of course, it's a lot easier to write in non-technical ways about opera than it is about orchestral music, because you have the narrative as a foothold for those who would get lost in key-changes and tempi, but this still struck me as a great example of how you can write about music for the non-technical reader without obviously dumbing things down. Excellent stuff!