Jan Swafford has already produced the most informative, insightful and effortlessly consumable biographies of Brahms and Beethoven, but in Mozart: The Reign of Love he really has outdone himself. Across 800 or so pages, and with a wealth of biographical details, excerpts from letters, and easy to follow analyses of the music, he paints a compelling portrait of a supremely gifted man – madcap idiosyncrasies and all – who lived his life with his heart on his sleeve and never looked back. Along the way he makes you fall in love all over again with the wunderkind from Salzburg while debunking many of the myths that have clung to the composer over the centuries.

Jan Swafford

“The Mozart we all inherited, suffering penury and writing for posterity, was an invention of biographers,” he writes. “At the same time, I have to admit that as a biographer I have some sympathy with those mythmakers. Who wants to read about a happy man? We’ll see.”

In fact, as Swafford makes clear, Mozart lived most of his life comfortably off...