Reprinted by permission of Bookviews Magazine.
The trend toward total frankness in biography, which lately has given us wart-filled looks at Cole Porter, Vivien Leigh and Montgomery Clift, has reached its awesome apogee with "Mozart: Genius or Fake?" by Dr. G. Max Fedderman (63pp., One Day Press, introduction by Eddie Fisher.) The book is much more than a mere expansion of Dr. Fedderman's landmark story for people, "Mozart: The First Salzburg Marionette." It is a lyrical in the groin to two centuries of musical myth. It is a gut-grabbing, soul-strirring, mind-boggling study of the most overrated composer since Solomon, a worthy sequel to Dr. Fedderman's unforgettable paperback, "Augustine: Plaster Saint."
One hardly knows where to begin to savor the rococo richness of this work, the product of more than seven months of research in Vienna, Salzburg and Detroit. Just when musicologists were convinced that the Mozart lode had been thoroughly mined, Dr.Fedderman comes along to shovel revelations that undoubtedly will make New York's Lincoin Center convert to a Mostly Man-tovani Festival next year.
In addition to its introdution and dedication ("For Brahms, who knows the reason why"), "Mozart: Genius or Fake?" contains four chapters that can be read allegro con brio as they merrily maul the composer that Fedderman has had the courage to rank "somewhere between Romberg and Rudolph Frimi." Like symphonic movements, these four chapters are singingly called, "Mozart: the Obnoxious Toddler," "Mozart: the Teen-Age Punk" and "Mozart: the Mature Son of a Bitch."
"People think Wagner had a lousy personality," Fedderman says, "Well, he was David Niven compared to Mozart and it's time the crowd at the Russian Tea Room wised up."
First of all, says the doctor, the very earliest Mozart was a drearily average child.
"There is absolutely no evidence that he composed a thing the womb," the doctor says, "Or that he was curled up like a treble clef in there. In fact, his gestation was very similar to that of Lawrence Welk."
The infant Mozart, Fedderman admits, did do an orchestration of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" that made the Austro-Hungarian charts; but he crawled much later than Offenbach and was toilet-trained later than George M. Cohan.
"Mozart unquestionably would have flunked a nursery-school admission test." Feddermansays, "because he fell far short of your typical Teutonic tot. Not only did he insist on going to bed with a metronome - he could only sleep in three-quater time - but whenever he played a piano concerto, he liked to powder his wig with snuff and watch the effect on the first violins. He liked to watch them blow their noses and the adagios as well."
Because of his precocity, Mozart was a fully developed neurotic by the time he was 10, the year he wrote "O Mein Papa" for his father Leo, who had told him, "Nice guys finish last.""He was in love with his father and his sister too," Fedderman says, "And he wanted to throw in his mother to give things a classical symmetry, but she turned him down. In fact, she said she would have preferred to take a room with Beethoven, 'because at least Beethoven didn't pretend to be goddam goody-good."
Fedderman devotes the entire last half of this remarkable book to answering the question critic Harold Schonberg has always ducked: Why was Mozart never invited anywhere twice?
"He was a show-off and a scrounge," Fedderman says, "and about as much fun to have for a weekend as Sibelius. First of all, whenever he was invited someplace to play, he never took requests but kept on pushing his own stuff as if he were Burt Bacharach. There was one terribly poignant moment when Queen Maria Theresa asked him to play a little Bach, and Mozart said he didn't know any and told her to whistle a couple of bars. Well, Bach had nothing on the charts at the time and the poor queen groped around with her mouth for a while and sounded as through she was hailing a cab.
"But it was in the scrounging that Mozart's genius really came out. He signed the prince's name to tabs as far as Schleswig-Holstein, even though the prince kept saying nein. Mozart just never listened to anybody else - with the exception of Haydn, that is; and to Haydn he listened too well. Half of Mozart's major works - especially the ones he wrote in 45 minutes - sound like late Haydn. In fact, Haydn finally got a lawyer, but the lawyer said, 'Forget it, Joe. The guy in headed for Potter's Field.'"
Mozart: Genius or Fake?" ends in a crescendo of innuendo that he has already inspired its serialization in both Juilliarc Jottings and the Soho News for Fedderman dares to wonder why Mozart's grave has never been found
"His death was probably faked as a ploy against his creditors," the doctor says. "He may still be alive for all we know."