Obituary: Robert Gutman, leading biographer of Wagner and Mozart, 90

Posted on: May 20, 2016

“Robert W. Gutman, whose influential biographies of Wagner and Mozart helped upend popularly held ideas about both composers’ lives, died on Friday in the Bronx. He was 90,” writes Margalit Fox in Wednesday’s (5/18) New York Times. “His death was confirmed by Steven Walsh, his husband and only immediate survivor. Trained in music and art history, Mr. Gutman was the author of ‘Richard Wagner: The Man, His Mind, and His Music’ (1968) and ‘Mozart: A Cultural Biography’ (1999). … While commending the beauty and majesty of Wagner’s compositions, Mr. Gutman also took pains to analyze his nonmusical activities—notably his profuse, turgid and virulently anti-Semitic writings … Mr. Gutman was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship to research his Mozart biography, which likewise examined the composer through a sociohistorical lens. … … Robert William Gutman was born in Brooklyn on Sept. 11, 1925, the son of Theodore Gutman, a lawyer, and the former Elsie Edenbaum, a legal secretary and homemaker. As a young man, he studied the piano and took instruction in music theory from [conductor] Kurt Adler … After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from New York University, Mr. Gutman joined the faculty of the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan … At midcentury, he was a founder of, and a music-history instructor at, the Bayreuth Festival Master Classes.”

Posted May 20, 2016