Finally, a Mozart biography that evokes a believable portrait of a striving, powerfully creative human being. Solomon, author of the ground-breaking life of Beethoven (1977), now turns his attention to the ``miracle which God let be born in Salzburg.'' The result is magisterial. Solomon's overriding ambition is to dismember what he calls the ``Myth of [Mozart] the Eternal Child,'' a view of the composer as a divinely inspired perpetual adolescent. The myth had its unseemly origins in the efforts of Mozart's father, Leopold, to keep his fiercely talented son subservient. By contrast, as laid out in Solomon's thoughtful, dignified and always readable narrative, one comes to appreciate that Mozart—despite numerous personal struggles and pervasive familial and societal restraints—had achieved a dramatic psychological as well as artistic maturity by the time of his death at age 35. Solomon's own ground rules are those of Freudian orthodoxy; not every reader will agree with every one of his interpretations. Still, the known facts are presented so clearly, and Solomon's analytic bias is so overt, that even a less than critical reader is in no risk of being misled. It also must be admitted that the lives of few other artists present so much material that feels right at home on the analytic couch. Mozart's father was the most successful imaginable musical pedagogue and impresario for his son; he was also a self-deceiving, self- defeating paranoid whose exploitation of both his children's phenomenal abilities feels, to a modern sensibility, perilously close to child abuse. Mozart grew from the devoted prodigy to the prolific and consummate craftsman (and, in Solomon's view, more of a musical radical than conventional musical history has been willing to allow), as well as a sometimes agonized husband and father and an emblematic member of a rapidly changing society. How he did so forms the matter of Solomon's work. A splendid book with ramifications for the whole study of Western culture, not just classical music.
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