Review: Lucy Worsley – Mozart’s London Odyssey

It seemed a rather long time since the poor Review section of this blog had had any new content, and it was perilously at risk of feeling overlooked and neglected. Then, quite by chance, a new documentary from the spirited Lucy Worsley appeared on BBC4.

Mozart’s London Odyssey follows a neat and circular narrative, beginning with Worsley describing how an eight year old Wolfgang Mozart was scrutinised by a scientist in London in 1765. The reason was that people could not – and did not – believe that his skill and talent were possible.

The documentary then jumps back in time to describe the background of the musical Mozart family in Salzburg, and Wolfgang Mozart’s early displays of musical genius. Wolfgang Mozart’s father, Leopold Mozart, had published a series of violin tutorials and his sister, known as Nannerl, was also very musically gifted. Leopold Mozart decided to exhibit the talents of his son and daughter to the assembled good, great and moneyed of Europe.

It was this tour of Europe which led them to London, which Leopold Mozart thought would be something of a gold mine to the family. Yet despite early success, the family soon ran into difficulties and vicious rumours then began to circulate that Wolfgang Mozart was not an eight year old boy, but actually a very small thirty year old man. It was this which led Leopold Mozart to issue a public challenge that anyone could come to their house and assess his son, to establish that his talents and age were true. And here the narrative comes full circle, back to the beginning, which provides the narrative structure with a satisfying sense of completeness.

Mozart’s London Odyssey explores the experiences of the Mozart family in an impressive amount of detail, given the limited timeframe of the documentary. Worsley deftly underlines the importance of that year in London in the formation of Wolfgang Mozart as a musician. Yet the scope of the documentary extends beyond the Mozart family. Interesting segments also look at travel, fashion and life in London in the eighteenth century.

In short, this is an engaging and varied documentary. The presentation and content have been well thought out, and Worsley’s enjoyment of the subject at hand once again shines through.


‘Lucy Worsley: Mozart’s London Odyssey’, BBC4, [accessed 22.06.2016].

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