Is “Mozart’s Last Aria” by Matt Rees the next “The Da Vinci Code”?
Both have taken cultural icons and developed a mystery around them. Both had me doing research to better understand the books. In fact, while I was reading “Mozart’s Last Aria” I actually played Mozart’s music. The major difference is that the mystery in “The Da Vinci Code” is somewhat set in modern day, while “Mozart’s Last Aria” is entirely historical.
The story opens with Mozart’s son, Franz Xaver Wolfgang, being given a journal from his ailing Aunt Nannerl, which describes Mozart’s murder, not his death. From there we flash back to when Nannerl first learned of her brother’s death, how Mozart suspected that he had been poisoned and her subsequent investigation.
Matt Rees has weaved together a captivating story after having done a great deal of research into the life of Mozart. Much of the story is based on real historical events such as Mozart’s anticipation of his own death and the influence of the Masons during this time. However, Matt Rees has also used artistic license in fashioning the story. For example, there is no evidence that Nannerl ever visited Vienna after Mozart’s death or that she suspected foul play.
In addition to the historical aspects of the story, what really intrigued me was the philosophical aspects that are as relevant today as they were in Mozart’s time, proving that history truly does repeat itself. Mozart is fighting for equality and his operas are full of this controversial notion. In the “Marriage of Figaro” for example the opera portrays a servant triumphing over his master. In a discussion of this work, Count von Pergen, the Imperial Minister of Police calls it a “seditious work” to which Nannerl responds that she thought it was an “exquisite opera.” Pergen’s response is one of my favorite passages in the book. He states, “Dear Lady, if a poison tasted vile, it would be harmless – no one would ever swallow it. The poisoner gives it the flavor of fruit or sugar to seduce us to our doom. Your brother’s beautiful music was the seduction, and Figaro’s outrageous philosophy was the poison. One might say the same of Freemasonry for example. “
Another interesting aspect of the book was women’s equality, which Mozart was championing. He wanted to create a Masonic Lodge that accepted women. Both Mozart and his sister Nannerl were musical prodigies who performed before royalty as children. Nannerl looked like her brother and was almost as talented. However as an adult, Nannerl was left to care for their aging father and then married off to a small functionary in a small village, while her brother went on to international fame. The story is told from her viewpoint.
I strongly recommend this book and feel that it would be an excellent book for book clubs to discuss as well. There is a P.S. section of the book with additional resources as well.
Five Stars out of Five
In accordance with FTC guidelines for reviewers, I would like to clarify that this book was provided to me by the publisher free of charge. I am not compensated by the author or publisher for my review. All they expect is an honest review of the work.