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Mozart: A Life

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  554 ratings  ·  39 reviews
In this first full-scale biography of Mozart in nearly 40 years, esteemed biographer Solomon draws on a half-century of new information to provide an in-depth account of the composer's family life, his passions, and his personality. Exploding myths and solving riddles, Solomon portrays Mozart in a new light. 75 photos.
Hardcover, 640 pages
Published February 1st 1995 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1995)
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Barnaby Thieme
Solomon attempts to do the impossible in this book -- to get inside the unconscious minds of the Mozarts on the basis of historical documents and letters -- and fails. That this book is so widely admired is, I think, more a testimony to the reading public's desire to understand Mozart on this level than the quality of this book.

This biography has deep problems.

First, Solomon's analytical impulse counteracts the narrative flow. Instead of organizing the book in linear chronology, he analyzes well
...more
Jennifer de Guzman
I have read this book many times, and it always strikes me what a profoundly human connection Maynard Solomon has with his subject, Wolfgang Mozart. At times, Solomon's analysis may veer a bit heavily toward the Freudian, but there is no denying that Leopold Mozart was a profound influence on his son and maintained a hold on him throughout his life. Solomon delves into that conflict, showing that Mozart was not as the "eternal child" but a man struggling to be autonomous and independent.

He found
...more
Mike
Almost as good as Solomon's biography of Beethoven--possibly even better because of the number of myths Solomon debunks. I particularly liked the analysis of Mozart's finances in the final years: he didn't die "a pauper" (as the myth goes), but was successfully working himself out of some tough times. If he had survived (he died in December, 1791), 1792 would probably have been his best year financially. Mozart's death itself wasn't a result of any "poisoning" by Salieri or some other rival (eve ...more
nadia
i don't know how much of this is based on fact, but it makes learning something about mozart's life and made it a great story. i guess it is a good place to start if you are a fiction reader who wants to learn something about a real person.
John-Paul
I've long been enamored of Mozart's music but unfortunately my only frame of reference regarding the life of this musical genius was the well-directed (if not misleading) Peter Shaffer film Amadeus. I needed to rectify this glaring oversight and this scholarly tome seemed to be THE book to read to begin a far more in-depth journey into Mozart's life and times. Certainly, Solomon's research is thorough and presented very well; his work on determining just how much Mozart may have made as both a c ...more
Sara
Overall, Solomon's treatment of Mozart's life was meticulously researched. I certainly appreciated the insights he offers on his relationships within his family gleaned from personal letters. I couldn't give it more than 3 stars, however, because of two main complaints. First, it read like a biography. He spent a great deal of time with the minutia and I felt that the readability of the book would have benefited from some condensation of the facts. The date of each composition is recorded withou ...more
Queenosiris
This book is a huge undertaking, really dissecting Mozart's life, trials, and tribulations. As someone who's favorite composer is Mozart, and as someone who has formally studied music and specifically Mozart, I felt this is a great tool to further your knowledge. The author does have some theories pertaining to his life, so this book is not just all facts, but I didn't feel that this detracted from the book at all.
Matthew
Superb, insightful biography which probes not only the psyche of the composer but also deeply dissects the hidden meanings in the music. Never jargonistic or too technical, it's very easily readable (and I don't even read music.) The chapter "Fearful Symmetries" is the best piece of music writing I've ever read.
Cathi
This book has been on my "I'll get to it eventually" list for a long time, and I'm glad that I finally read it. I learned a great deal and enjoyed the writing for the most part, but some of the book really drove me crazy. It was incredibly detailed, especially about money matters. It also had many foreign words and phrases for which I would have appreciated translations. Most of all, there was way too much psychobabble throughout the book. Way too much Freudian analysis! However, even with all o ...more
Ann
I really enjoyed this book - it provided a detailed and comprehensive view of the life of a very interesting composer and linked the periods of his life with the compositions that he wrote during those periods. The author also provides a lot of psychoanalysis of Mozart's (fairly dysfunctional) relationships with his father, mother, sister, wife, and himself, although I kind of wonder how much of that analysis was really valid and how much of it was the author's invention based on thin evidence a ...more
Katja
Very informative about Mozart and his life. A good read for any who wish to know more about his life, composition style, and influence on the musical world.
Colleen
Well, wow! As a non-professional-musician type who was yet determined to slog through this tome, I found the musical theory passages daunting and unreadable--I wanted very much to understand the connection between Mozart's thought process and his actual music and what made it so revolutionary, but I simply could not. On the other hand, the historical, biographical, and psychological sections were very engrossing. I would have liked more in-depth information about the development of his operas, b ...more
Asha Hawkesworth
I enjoyed the book, but you get the idea that Mozart was hard to pin down, and that we don't really know that much about him in the end.
Matthew Pittsinger
Solomon's undergraduate-level psychoanalysis is incredibly annoying, distracting, and masturbatory.
Vincent Centeno
I just could not put this book down until I finished it.
Alexis Kwon
BEST account of Mozart ever written.
Velvetink
Apr 18, 2015 Velvetink marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
tuebl
Daniel
Dec 11, 2009 Daniel is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Solomon is great. Dry humor, excellent research. This guy would make a great private detective. Up to page 100 you get more about Mozart's father, Leopold, which Solomon easily justifies given the enormous influence he had on Mozart. Though it is about 400 pages away, I just know that Solomon's coverage of the Requiem and Mozart's death (poisoned!?!?!!?) is going to have me glued to the book like a Dashiell Hammet novel.
MK Fong
Reading about this amazingly talented composer and performer is fantastic just to know more about the man. However, I still did not feel like I got an intimate look at his personality. The movie 'Amadeus' had the benefit of creative license in this regard. Yes, even reading WAM's peresonal letters didn't flesh him out to the full.
Dima the Driven
It was a pretty good book and all but it could get so irritating with the writer constantly psycho analyzing Mozart's behavior. A lot of it was alot of repetitive stuff about the relationship of father and son. The good thing about it was that it was thourough of his life and seems to have compiled the majority of correspondence.
Colin
This was a very thorough and fascinating view of Mozart's life. I came into the story only knowing some general basics (mostly from the Amadeus movie). His family struggles, financial concerns and the belief he had in his music, resonated loudly with me.
Alex
Magnificent biography on one of the most prodigious talents of all time. Mozart's personality really shines through this book. I would recommend it for anyone who wants to know about the Imaginarian type.
S.
I really enjoyed this. I don't know if Solomon is a great storyteller or if Mozart's life was a great story. In either case, who cares, a wonderful biography also for people who don't read music.
Stephanie
I loved it! I have the feeling this was one of the works researched for the movie Amadeus. Interesting insite into the struggles of musicians in that time and the quirky personality of Mozart.
Mattc
We learn of the child star Mozart touring europe with his family in 1763~1766 (7~10 years of age), dazzling the nobles wherever he went. Leopold Mozart (the father) was the "manager."
Daniel Michalak
Solomon attempts to recreate Mozart as a mature man who is more dissimilar than similar to the popularized sketches of the "enlightened Mozart" (Mozart as the "eternal child").
David
Exhaustive. Some of the authors "psychological" insights into Mozart's thoughts, fears, and motivations are questionable at best. Mozart was a weird little dude.
Miette
Apr 08, 2007 Miette marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I got a recommendation to read this from the Teaching Company lecture on Mozart's life. The professor said this was the best book on Mozart.
Elizabeth
Jul 23, 2007 Elizabeth rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Musicians, History Buffs
Gives intimate details and insight to this great composer. After reading this book you are able to listen and experience his music at a new level.
Becky
This is an excellent biography of Mozart. Solomon has done extensive research and presented the facts and his ideas thoughtfully.
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Maynard Solomon was a co-founder of Vanguard Records as well as a music producer, and later became a writer on music
More about Maynard Solomon...
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