In Mozart’s Last Aria, Matt Rees has taken real events from the life and death of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and used them as the scaffolding for a mystery about the composer’s death. When Wolfgang’s estranged sister, Madame Berchtold von Sonnenburg — known familiarly as Nannerl, gets a letter from her sister-in-law stating that he believed he’d been poisoned and that he certainly had not been having an extramarital affair, she quickly realizes that something is very, very wrong: although his health had always been somewhat precarious, the circumstances described here merited further investigation.
Nannerl leaves her country home and travels to Vienna to talk to Wolfgang’s wife and friends. She quickly finds herself immersed again in the life she had once known, moving among the wealthy and titled and playing Wolfgang’s music for them. It seems Nannerl had been nearly as talented as her brother, if not in composition than in playing his music. Having been out of that world since her marriage, though, Nannerl has no idea whom she can trust, though she begins to see that Wolfgang’s radical politics, as played out through his membership in the Masons as well as his music, provided a realistic motive for his murder.
I love both historical fiction and Mozart’s music, so there was much to enjoy here. I wish I’d known, though, that there’s a section in the back of the book, “The Music,” that provides citations to the music being described at various points in the text — I would’ve listened to some of it as I went along, just to add to the atmosphere and my appreciation for his work. (Check out this site, or there are many videos on YouTube, although I can’t vouch for their quality.) I’m listening to his Requiem as I write this review.
I enjoyed the cultural and historical aspects of the book more than the mystery, which I found somewhat confusing due to the names and titles and politics of an unfamiliar time and place — my own failing, I’m sure! Nonetheless I offer sincere thanks to Julia O’Halloran, Harper Collins publicist, for send me a copy of the book for review: it’s different from most of what I’ve been reading lately, and it reminded me of just how much I enjoy Mozart’s music.
Counts toward Europe in the 2012 Global Reading Challenge