Maynard Solomon, "a musicologist and record producer best known for his influential, lucidly written biographies of Beethoven and Mozart, as well as a hotly debated scholarly article on Schubert's sexuality," died September 28, the New York Times reported. He was 90.
Reviewing Beethoven Essays (1988), Times music critic Donal Henahan described Solomon as "one of the most persuasive voices on behalf of the perilous intellectual voyage known as psychobiography--or, less kindly, 'psychobabblography.' " But in investigating the mysteries of creative energy, Solomon "builds even his most speculative essays on musicological foundations, not moonbeams."
Solomon's 1977 biography of Beethoven, revised and reissued in 1998, "offered fresh, meticulously researched accounts of his life and perceptive yet mostly nontechnical discussions of his compositions," the Times wrote, adding that "his approach resonated outside the realm of classical music. His book Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination (2004) was also influential."
Solomon's Mozart: A Life was a finalist for the 1996 Pulitzer Prize in biography. In his New Yorker review of the book, Edward W. Said observed that Solomon's depiction of the father-son dynamic "shows how it imprisoned the young Wolfgang Mozart creatively and personally in the older man's sphere as rebel and--here Solomon's ingenuity gives an audacious edge to his interpretation--as willing captive." Leopold's feelings are seen as "predicated on love and admiration, not merely venality and greed." Said concluded he "did not know a musician's biography as satisfying and moving as this one."
In 1950, with a $10,000 loan from their father, Solomon and his brother, Seymour, founded Vanguard Records, which, along with its Bach Guild label, "released an impressively diverse catalog of valuable recordings, especially of overlooked works, and issued pivotal albums of folk music, blues and jazz" as well as classical works.