English-born Solomon [full name: Solomon Cutner; Solomon is only name he ever used in his professional life] enjoyed two separate, successful careers as a pianist. From the age of 8 until his early teens, he was one of the most celebrated child prodigies of his era - a national phenomenon in England right up until the time of World War II. However, he disappeared from the musical scene for a number of years, emerging again in the late 1920's as a mature player; this second, now international, career would last through World War II and into the 1950's.
Solomon was the son of an impoverished tailor from the city's East End. At the age of 7, he astonished all of the adults around him by playing his own piano arrangement of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. He began studying with Mathilde Verne, a one-time student of Clara Schumann. He made his formal concert debut in June 1910, playing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, and became an overnight sensation. However, the extensive touring, concretising, and study proved to be too much, and he found himself loathing his instrument by the age of 15. On the advice of the conductor, Sir Henry J. Wood, he retreated from performance and immersed himself in study, now removed from the pressures of his career. He studied in Paris with Lévy and Marcel Dupré.
Solomon resumed his career in 1923, at the age of 21, adopting his first name for his concert engagements. In 1926 he made his USA debut, and in subsequent years toured all over the world as a soloist with orchestras, recitalist, and chamber music artist. His playing as an adult was acclaimed for its clarity, brilliance, and overall poetic feeling. Solomon was particularly respected by his fellow musicians for his immaculate pianism, and the easy, unobtrusive virtuosity of his work. His ego was virtually non-existent in concert, and his performances were, virtually without exception, a stunningly clear expression of the composer's intentions.
Solomon was well known for performances of the L.v. Beethoven sonatas and piano concertos, though he never did record them all. He was also renowned for his W.A. Mozart, Frédéric Chopin, Johannes Brahms, and Debussy, as well as early 20th century works such as Sir Arthur Bliss's Piano Concerto, which he premiered at the 1939 World's Fair in New York and later recorded for EMI. He toured abroad a good deal, particularly during and shortly after World War II, when he gave numerous much-cherished recitals in the USA and Australia. A plan to record the L.v. Beethoven concertos with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Wilhelm Furtwängler proved unsuccessful; the pianist objected to working with Wilhelm Furtwängler due to the latter's activities in Germany during the Nazi regime. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1946. In 1955, Solomon became part of a very promising piano trio with violinist Zino Francescatti and cellist Pierre Fournier, but it was not to last. In 1956, while on vacation in France, he suffered a stroke that left him paralysed on his right side, bringing his career to an end.
Solomon's recordings, which date from the 1930's, were done for EMI and are all of interest; they have begun to appear on compact disc, either directly through EMI or under license to the Testament label. Despite the onset of his stroke in 1956, Solomon recorded a handful of works in stereo, but whether in stereo or mono, his recordings are all worth hearing, the clarity of his playing overcoming any seeming technical shortcomings in the recordings themselves. His performance of L.v. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, in particular, is notable for its poetic lyricism and natural, unforced passion.