Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mozart’s Last Aria, a Review

According to Wikipedia, the cause of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s death on December 5, 1791, at the age of 35, “cannot be known with certainty. The official record has it as hitziges Frieselfieber (severe military fever)” while researchers “have posited at least 118 causes of death.” The article states that “the most widely accepted hypothesis is that Mozart died of acute rheumatic fever.”

But what if something more sinister was involved? In October, 1791, not long after the premier performance in Vienna of his opera, “The Magic Flute”, Mozart told his wife that he knew he would ‘not last much longer. I’m sure I’ve been poisoned,’ he said.

Who but a madman would poison such genius? This is the question raised in the new novel by Matt Rees, Mozart’s Last Aria. Rees, author of the award-winning Omar Yussef series about a Palestinian detective, calls his historical whodunit mystery a “crime novel in A minor.” 

In the weeks following the composer’s death, his estranged sister Nannerl arrives in Vienna to visit his grave and to attend performances in his honor. Nannerl is also seeking ways to make amends for the circumstances that had kept her apart from her brother. As she hears and performs Mozart’s work, she is drawn closer to him. “I had rejoined him in his music. Once more we were together.”

More than anything, Nannerl seeks to discover the truth who killed her brother, and why. “Wolfgang was dead. But how? At the hand of someone connected to his illegal Brotherhood of Masons?” Or perhaps Mozart had been killed by an avenging husband discovering an adulterous affair. “I wondered if my brother had died with something to repent,” she thinks.

Nannerl’s investigations reveal that Vienna is a city buzzing with sinister plotting and espionage. Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’, while achieving a huge success, is noted for its Masonic elements and the enlightenment philosophy of its message may have been seen as a threat against the Austrian Emperor. “The intrigue of the capital wasn’t for my poor, naïve brother,” Nannerl eventually concludes after she discovers the truth about Mozart’s death.

The pages of Mozart’s Last Aria can be complemented by listening to the composer’s timeless creations. In fact, Rees has paced his crime novel “in terms of one of Wolfgang’s piano sonatas.” The concept of beginning the story with a disturbing Allegro maestoso, following that with a “thoughtful second movement” and then resolving the mystery with a series of climatic scenes in a final Presto movement gave Rees an emotional framework for the plot.

Unlike his Omar Yussef novels, Mozart’s Last Aria will not be followed by additional detective investigations by its main protagonist. Instead, Rees’s next novel will deal with the 16th Century Italian artist Caravaggio. Rees learned how to play the piano in order to write about Mozart and taught himself to paint with oils and duel with a rapier in order to write about Caravaggio.

Was Caravaggio murdered? We will have to wait for the Matt Rees’s next crime novel to be published to find out who killed the Italian artist and why.

Buy Mozart’s Last Aria and read it now!

1 comment:

  1. Whether he was murdered or not, I think that's a really cool concept. If someone put that novel in my hand and told me I had to read, I wouldn't hesitate.

    Even more intrigued by the Caravaggio one. Because, well, 16th Century Italia. Enough said! :)