Mozart in Johann Nepomuk della Croce’s circa 1781 portrait.

In the July Atlantic magazine, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim writes, “One of my favorite passages in all of Mozart sounds nothing like him. In the opening bars of his String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, quiet notes from the violins and violas ooze over the halting pulse of the cello. At times, sounds coalesce into weird dissonances as parts seem to grope, perhaps instinctually, toward harmony. Then a tense pause—and a jaunty melody bursts forth as if released by a spring. I’ve been hearing this moment with fresh admiration since reading ‘Mozart in Motion,’ by the British poet Patrick Mackie—an illuminating book that aims to ground the music of a composer too often idolized as a mere instrument of the divine in the context of his time…. To many listeners, Mozart’s music sounds so natural and self-evident that it’s hard to imagine it costing the composer much effort, let alone courage. ‘So pure’ is Mozart’s music, in the scientific assessment of Albert Einstein, ‘that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master.’ Mackie’s book, subtitled ‘His Work and His World in Pieces,’ is a welcome reminder that the universe reflected in Mozart’s operas, symphonies, concertos, and chamber works was very much shaped by political and social currents—some of which reflect the anxieties and hopes of our own time as well.”