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Mozart: A Life Paperback – December 27, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Perhaps the most important Mozart biography ever written, this book is subtle, rich-textured, endlessly stimulating and provocative -- just like the man's music. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Beethoven biographer Solomon here presents a revisionist biography of Mozart, which his publisher claims is the first full-scale biography in nearly 40 years. Certainly it is a major work in terms of heft and range. Solomon will have none of the "divine child" approach, limning instead a man growing up under the shadow of an impossibly demanding father who was at once overprotective and jealous of his son's vast gifts. There is a great deal of psychological probing into the agonies of their relationship, much of it sensible; and Solomon paints an indelible portrait of Mozart's last years, begging for money, guilty about his deprived wife Constanze, resentful of being virtually cut out of his father's will, yet still heroically forging a new musical aesthetic. He also clears up much of the mystery about the bizarre Requiem commission, and the burial in the "pauper's grave." He is convinced that Mozart and his cousin "the Basle," recipient of many of the infamous smutty letters, were lovers for a time; and the portrait of the composer that emerges is of an extraordinarily sensitive, liberal-minded (the Masonic material is superb), extravagant but responsible person who has been much belittled by biographers beginning almost immediately after his death. Solomon also writes acutely about what was daringly new, and wonderfully enduring, about Mozart's music. Only a certain lack of flow between the chapters suggests the origin of much of this material in lectures. Illustrations. BOMC selection.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 11/27/05 edition (December 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060883448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060883447
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #225,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael J. Cashen on January 18, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book should be titled "Mozart - A Psychoanalysis"
The book has some strong points - a good analysis of musical style with many examples (if you can't play them on a piano at least tap out the rhythms to get an idea of what he was trying to do) and details about Mozart's dirty letters and fondness for writing backwards. He also makes a good case for Mozart having good earnings. Some of these things are probably difficult to find elsewhere.
However it leaves out some extraordinary things, including Mozart's attitude toward Salieri - and vice-versa, meeting Voltaire and Beethoven, and much of the political climate.
The author drones on with page after page of psychobabble that serves to over-exhaust both the subject and the reader. For example, the following run-on sentence (one of many in the book) occurs five (!) pages into a continuous set of statements about musical imagery:
"An argument can be made, however, that in the last analysis we bring to the entire continuum of such (anxious mental) states derivatives of feelings having their origin in early stages of our lives, and in particular the preverbal state of symbiotic fusion of infant and mother, a matrix that constitutes an infancy-Eden of unsurpassable beauty but also a state completely vulnerable to terrors of separation, loss, and even fears of potential annihilation, a state that inevitably terminates in parting, which even under the most favorable circumstances leaves a residue of grief and melancholy, engendering a desire - wrapped in the likelihood of further disillusionment - to rediscover anew the sensations of undifferentiated fusion with a nurturing caretaker."
That was just ONE sentence!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you ever wondered how Mozart -- using just the same materials and structures as Haydn -- could create works of excruciating beauty instead of merely works of elegant formality, you MUST read this book.

The book is organized thematically instead of strictly chronologically; reading it is like watching a beautiful opera about Mozart's life from the best seat in the house. The immense scholarly apparatus never clanks, wheezes, or whirrs -- yet you can go backstage at any time and see exactly what's supporting the stunning performance.

Without any psychobabble, Solomon leads you to the most profound psychological insights into Mozart's life and achievements. After he marshals all the facts, he reveals the most astonishing -- and eminently plausible -- insights that you slap your forehead and say "of course -- why didn't I see that!?"

Easily the best biography I have ever read.
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Format: Paperback
Solomon's book was my first foray into a major biography about a classical composer. I chose it because it came highly recommended, and Mozart was the first composer that I felt I needed to study in depth. I entered into it hoping to find factual information as well as some interpretation.
While I think that Solomon's writing overall is very enjoyable (we aren't bothered with descriptions of furniture layouts, as in A. Scott Berg's "Lindbergh") what troubles me about this book is his use of Freudian psychoanalysis. Now, I have studied Freud, and I find many of his ideas very interesting, but I have been consistently disappointed with efforts to impose some of these concepts where they do not belong. Solomon does this to Mozart, and I just didn't buy it at all. What particularly troubled me was the fact that Solomon never explains what he's doing. It would make sense for him to define the critical tools he's going to use on Mozart, and explain WHY he thinks it is valid or important to examine Mozart this way. Instead, he just launches into it, expecting that the reader takes these concepts for granted. I'm sorry but I do not believe that a primary instinct of any given male from any place and period in time is an overwhelming desire to return to his mother's womb. If you do- then you will enjoy Solomon's book. Rather labored, I think, is his definition of the "adagio/andante archetype," in which a large number of Mozart's slow movements can be read as a need to resolve tension. Solomon defines this tension as a feeling of loss, of being ousted from paradise, in short, of seperation from one's mother. Ugh.
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Format: Paperback
During the past few years, I have become increasingly interested in the music of Mozart, listening to numerous CDs of his works. I decided to find out more about the man himself, so I read "Mozart: A Life" by Maynard Solomon.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Mozart in this well-written biography. It was immediately clear to me that Solomon had done extensive research into Mozart's past, with excerpts of the letters between Mozart and his father, as well as tabulations of Mozart's earnings during his life. The chronological layout, from child to man, allowed me to trace the development of Mozart's character, personality, and music. I was particularly captivated by the description of the relationship Mozart had with his father, Leopold.
The amount of detail present in some of the chapters was exhausting, yet remained interesting at the same time. The reading did become dry, however, when Solomon began giving his personal glimpses into Mozart's music itself. He has a tendency to use "flowery" words, but if you have decent command of the English language you should have no trouble understanding the biography.
Overall, I was impressed by this account of Mozart's life and recommend it for any music lover, whether you like Mozart or not. The biography places a great emphasis on Mozart's actual life (other biographies primarily discuss his music) and this serves to enlighten the reader as to who Mozart was as a man, not just as a composer. A must-read for any Mozart lover.
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