For the beautiful in Mozart seems to stand apart, untouched by human hands. Which is to say that Mozart’s music often seems effortless, an aes-thetic judgment often ratified by what we know of the circumstances of its composition. Human strain, or even overt human manipulation, the tooling of a product, would seem to have left little mark here. The music seems somehow pre-made, and it glows with a self-sufficiency that has less to do with “unity” and more with apartness: untouched, untouchable. It is often heard as a kind of alabaster that flows without perturbation—this effect has nothing to do with a lack of dramatic events in the music but rather with the bearing of the music, for even the most electrifyingly dissonant passages never cloy; the psychic envelope of the music never threatens to tear; nothing is going to burst. Yet even so, the effect is not that of some distant Olympian but is often as moving as Schubert. What musical features account for this particular kind of beauty? Why do we tend to hear Mozart’s music as both untouchable and touching?

Scott Burnham, from the “Invitation” to his new book Mozart’s Grace. I write this while listening to the Wind Serenades.