Solomon Cutner, CBE (9 August 1902 – 2 February 1988) was a British pianist known professionally simply as Solomon. He brought to his playing an effortless virtuosity, great respect for the printed score, and deep spirituality.
Solomon Cutner was born in the East End of London in 1902. He was a child prodigy whose talent was recognised at the age of seven when, having had no formal tuition, he performed his own arrangement of the 1812 Overture on the family piano. He gave his first concerts in 1912 at the age of ten, retired from public performance in his teens and then resumed his career as an adult performer. He began making records in 1929. As a child he was sent to live with his teacher, Mathilde Verne, who had studied with Clara Schumann. It is has been asserted that Verne abused and exploited her young charge.[clarification needed]
After establishing a reputation, he toured abroad a good deal, particularly before, during and shortly after World War II, when he gave numerous much-cherished recitals in the United States and Australia. He premiered the Piano Concerto in B-flat by Arthur Bliss at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Renowned especially for his Beethoven, which had an almost legendary status (he broadcast the entire cycle of the 32 piano sonatas for the BBC), he was in the midst of recording the complete cycle of the sonatas for EMI Records when he suffered a devastating stroke in 1956, which paralysed his right arm. He never recorded or performed in public again, but lived on for another 32 years. His recordings of Mozart, Schumann and Brahms are also highly regarded; his Debussy, Bach and Schubert recordings are likewise esteemed.
He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1946.
He died in London in 1988, aged 85.
"In the Pathétique, Solomon's most familiar virtues are perfectly united with the proper sense of drama and intensity. Rarely can Beethoven's early romanticism have been more concentratedly yet more clearly expressed. The suspense at the end of the famous Grave introduction is created, as is often the case with Solomon, by a scrupulous adherence to the text and whilst others may be more storming and indeed rampant in the following Allegro di molto e con brio few could rival Solomon's overall command."
The same drama and intensity are also heard in his powerful, assured and immaculate reading of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 21, in C major, Op. 53 ("Waldstein").
Solomon's first recordings were made in 1929 for the English branch of Columbia Records. He later recorded for HMV. Most of his recordings have appeared on compact disc, either directly through EMI/Warner or under license to the Testament label. Before the onset of his stroke in 1956 he recorded a handful of works in stereo, but whether in stereo or mono his recordings are all worth hearing; the clarity, tonal beauty and imaginativeness of his playing overcoming any shortcomings of recording technique. Solomon's rendition of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata is notable for its poetic lyricism and natural, unforced passion; in opus 111 he was in his element.
A full discography of Solomon's recordings can be found in the biography by Bryan Crimp: Solo: The Biography of Solomon (APR 1994), and also in one of the ARSC's journals – as here. Some further recordings have come to light (listed below):
- Ludwig van Beethoven
- Johannes Brahms
- Arthur Bliss
- Solomon: The First Recordings, 1942–43. Frédéric Chopin, Etude for piano No. 9 in F minor, Op. 10/9, CT. 22, Etude for piano No. 14 in F minor, Op. 25/2, CT. 27, Etude for piano No. 15 in F major, Op. 25/3, CT 28., Nocturne for piano No. 8 in D flat major, Op. 27/2, CT. 115, Berceuse for piano in D flat major, Op. 57, CT. 7, Johannes Brahms Variations (25) and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, for piano, in B flat major, Op. 24, Ludwig van Beethoven Piano Trio in B flat major ("Archduke"), Op. 97. Signature Series Records CD, 1994.
- Beethoven: Three Favorite Sonatas – Seraphim Records LP 60286
- Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major – Angel Records LP 35580
- Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Opp. 90, 101, 106, 109, 110 & 111 – EMI Classics CD, 1993.
- Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1–4; Piano Sonata No. 14 – EMI Classics CD, 1995.
- Schumann, Brahms & Liszt. Robert Schumann Carnaval for piano, Op. 9. Johannes Brahms, Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, Op. 5. Franz Liszt, La Leggierezza, for piano in F minor (Grandes études de concert No. 2), S. 144/2 (LW A118/2), Au bord d'une source (II & III), for piano (Années I/4), S. 160/4 & S. 160/4bis (LW A159/4), Hungarian Rhapsody, for piano No. 15 in A minor (Rákóczi-Marsch III), S. 244/15 (LW A132/15) – Testament Records, 1996.
- The Complete Recordings of Chopin: Testament Records CD, 1993.
- Solomon Plays Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15, Variations (25) and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, for piano, in B flat major, Op. 24. Testament Records, 1994.
- Darryl Lyman: Great Jews in Music. J. D. Publishers, Middle Village, N.Y, 1986.
- Stanley Sadie, H. Wiley Hitchcock (Ed.): The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. Grove's Dictionaries of Music, New York, N.Y. 1986.
- Alain Pâris: Dictionnaire des interpretes et de l'interpretation musicale au XX siecle. Robert Laffont, Paris 1989.