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Ten Books about Beethoven

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Don't only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.
- Ludwig van Beethoven
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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) is often thought of today as the quintessential tortured genius. Many of his biographies delve deep into the glorified Romantic myth of the isolated, deaf composer and even into the realm of soap opera. 

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These ten books trace Beethoven's life from his time as a somewhat delinquent student of Joseph Haydn's, his performing years as a virtuoso pianist, the mystery of his Immortal Beloved, the tragedy of his deafness, his musical maturity, and current perspectives on the politicized reception of his revolutionary music. 

    Experiencing Beethoven

    The life and music of Beethoven still fascinate classical music lovers, new and old. His many symphonies, sonatas, concertos, string quartets, and his one opera enchant audiences, challenge performers, engage students, and support scholars in their work. In Experiencing Beethoven, music historian Geoffrey Block explores in layman's terms a highly representative body of about two dozen Beethoven instrumental and vocal works, offering listeners who know him well, or are just discovering him, an opportunity to grasp the breadth and depth of his musical genius. Designed for those unversed in musical terminology or theory, Experiencing Beethoven places the composer's works within the evolving context of his personal and professional life and social and cultural milieu. Block sheds light on the public and private audiences of Beethoven's music, from the concerts for the composer's own financial benefit to the debut of the "Eroica" Symphony at the palace of Prince Lobkowitz to the historic public premiere of his Ninth Symphony. Experiencing Beethoven paints a portrait of the composer's youth in Bonn, his early triumphs and artistic maturation in Vienna, and-despite the challenges his music posed to his contemporaries- the recognition he received during his lifetime as the most acclaimed composer of the era. Block conveys the range and scope of Beethoven's achievement, from his heroic style to his lyricism, grappling throughout with the composer's power to communicate his idealistic musical vision to listeners in both his time and ours. Finally, Experiencing Beethoven explores why Beethoven's music continues to enjoy an unwavering appeal in an age saturated with a range of musical styles.

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    The Cambridge Companion to Beethoven

    This Companion, first published in 2000, provides a comprehensive view of Beethoven and his work. The first part of the book presents the composer as a private individual, as a professional, and at the work-place, discussing biographical problems, Beethoven's professional activities when not composing and his methods as a composer. In the heart of the book, individual chapters are devoted to all the major genres cultivated by Beethoven and to the elements of style and structure that cross all genres. The book concludes by looking at the ways that Beethoven and his music have been interpreted by performers, writers on music, and in the arts, literature, and philosophy. The essays in this volume, written by leading Beethoven specialists, maintain traditional emphases in Beethoven studies while incorporating other developments in musicology and theory.

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    Late Beethoven

    In a series of powerful strokes, the music of Beethoven's last years redefined his legacy and enlarged the realm of experience accessible to the creative imagination. Maynard Solomon's "Late Beethoven" investigates the phenomenon of the final phase, focusing especially on the striking metamorphosis in Beethoven's system of beliefs that began early in his fifth decade and eventually amounted to a sweeping realignment of his views of nature, antiquity, divinity, and human purpose. Using the composer's letters, diaries, and conversation books, Solomon traces Beethoven's attraction to a constellation of heterogeneous ideas, drawn from Romanticism, Freemasonry, comparative religion, Eastern initiatory ritual, Mediterranean mythology, aesthetics, and classical and contemporary thought. Through these often arcane sources, Beethoven gained access to a vast reservoir of imagery and ideas with the potential to expand music's expressive and communicative reach. This 'multitude of productive images,' writes Solomon, 'provided kindling for the blaze of his imagination.' "Late Beethoven" is a rich tapestry of original perspectives on Beethoven's music. Solomon sees the Seventh Symphony as a deployment of the rhythms of antiquity in an effort to revalidate the premises of the Classical world; the Ninth as an essay on the prospects and limits of affirmative, monumental endings; and the 'Diabelli' Variations as a doorway to the universe of metaphoric significances that attach to beginnings. In the Violin Sonata in G, op. 96, Solomon finds a restoration of the full range of pastoral experience that the ancient poets had known. In the Grosse Fuge he locates issues of fragmentation and reassembly, and he suggests that pivotal passages of the last sonatas evoke sacred states of being. These stimulating perspectives illuminate the inner world within which Beethoven dwelled during his last fifteen years and the ways in which his thought and music may be interrelated. Written in accessible and eloquent prose, and with numerous music examples, "Late Beethoven" is a serious contribution to understanding this miraculous quantum leap in Beethoven's creative evolution.

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    Beethoven after Napoleon

    In this provocative analysis of Beethoven's late style, Stephen Rumph demonstrates how deeply political events shaped the composer's music, from his early enthusiasm for the French Revolution to his later entrenchment during the Napoleonic era. Impressive in its breadth of research as well as for its devotion to interdisciplinary work in music history, Beethoven after Napoleon challenges accepted views by illustrating the influence of German Romantic political thought in the formation of the artist's mature style. Beethoven's political views, Rumph argues, were not quite as liberal as many have assumed. While scholars agree that the works of the Napoleonic era such as the Eroica Symphony or Fidelio embody enlightened, revolutionary ideals of progress, freedom, and humanism, Beethoven's later works have attracted less political commentary. Rumph contends that the later works show clear affinities with a native German ideology that exalted history, religion, and the organic totality of state and society. He claims that as the Napoleonic Wars plunged Europe into political and economic turmoil, Beethoven's growing antipathy to the French mirrored the experience of his Romantic contemporaries. Rumph maintains that Beethoven's turn inward is no pessimistic retreat but a positive affirmation of new conservative ideals.

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    Beethoven

    This brilliant portrayal weaves Beethoven's musical and biographical stories into their historical and artistic contexts. Lewis Lockwood sketches the turbulent personal, historical, political, and cultural frameworks in which Beethoven worked and examines their effects on his music. "The result is that rarest of achievements, a profoundly humane work of scholarship that will-or at least should-appeal to specialists and generalists in equal measure" (Terry Teachout, Commentary). Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. "Lewis Lockwood has written a biography of Beethoven in which the hours that Beethoven spent writing music-that is, his methods of working, his interest in contemporary and past composers, the development of his musical intentions and ideals, his inner musical life, in short-have been properly integrated with the external events of his career. The book is invaluable." -Charles Rosen "Lockwood writes with poetry and clarity-a rare combination. I especially enjoyed the connection that he makes between the works of Beethoven and the social and political context of their creation-we feel closer to Beethoven the man without losing our wonder at his genius." -Emanuel Ax "The magnum opus of an illustrious Beethoven scholar. From now on, we will all turn to Lockwood's Beethoven: The Music and the Life for insight and instruction." -Maynard Solomon "This is truly the Beethoven biography for the intelligent reader. Lewis Lockwood speaks in his preface of writing on Beethoven's works at 'a highly accessible descriptive level.' But he goes beyond that. His discussion of the music, based on a deep knowledge of its context and the composition processes behind it, explains, elucidates, and is not afraid to evaluate; while the biographical chapters, clearly and unfussily written, and taking full account of the newest thinking on Beethoven, align closely with the musical discussion. The result is a deeply perceptive book that comes as close as can be to presenting the man and the music as a unity."-Stanley Sadie, editor, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians "Impressive for both its scholarship and its fresh insights, this landmark work-fully accessible to the interested amateur-immediately takes its place among the essential references on this composer and his music."-Bob Goldfarb, KUSC-FM 91.5 "Lockwood writes like an angel: lucid, enthusiastic, stirring and enlightening. Beethoven has found his ablest interpreter."-Jonathan Keates, The Spectator "There is no better survey of Beethoven's compositions for a wide audience."-Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times Book Review

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    Beethoven

    Beethoven is a classic study of the composer's music, written by one of the most important thinkers of our time. Throughout his life, Adorno wrote extensive notes, essay fragments and aides-memoires on the subject of Beethoven's music. This book brings together all of Beethoven's music in relation to the society in which he lived. Adorno identifies three periods in Beethoven's work, arguing that the thematic unity of the first and second periods begins to break down in the third. Adorno follows this progressive disintegration of organic unity in the classical music of Beethoven and his contemporaries, linking it with the rationality and monopolistic nature of modern society. Beethoven will be welcomed by students and researchers in a wide range of disciplines - philosophy, sociology, music and history - and by anyone interested in the life of the composer.

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    The Ninth

    A decade after the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars had given way to an era of retrenchment and repression, 1824 became a watershed year. The premiere of the Ninth Symphony, the death of Lord Byron - who had been aiding the Greeks in their struggle for independence, Delacroix's painting of the Turkish massacre of Greeks at Chios and Pushkin's anti-tyrannical play Boris Godunov all signalled that the desire for freedom was not dead. And all of these works and events were part of the flowering of the High Romantic period. In "The Ninth", eminent music historian and biographer Harvey Sachs employs memoir, anecdote and his vast knowledge of history to explain how the premiere of Beethoven's staggering last symphony was emblematic of its time - a work of art unlike any other - and a magisterial, humanistic statement that remains a challenge down to our own day and for future generations.

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    Political Beethoven

    Musicians, music lovers and music critics have typically considered Beethoven's overtly political music as an aberration; at best, it is merely notorious, at worst, it is denigrated and ignored. In Political Beethoven, Nicholas Mathew returns to the musical and social contexts of the composer's political music throughout his career - from the early marches and anti-French war songs of the 1790s to the grand orchestral and choral works for the Congress of Vienna - to argue that this marginalized functional art has much to teach us about the lofty Beethovenian sounds that came to define serious music in the nineteenth century. Beethoven's much-maligned political compositions, Mathew shows, lead us into the intricate political and aesthetic contexts that shaped all of his oeuvre, thus revealing the stylistic, ideological and psycho-social mechanisms that gave Beethoven's music such a powerful voice - a voice susceptible to repeated political appropriation, even to the present day.

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    Beethoven the Pianist

    The widely held belief that Beethoven was a rough pianist, impatient with his instruments, is not altogether accurate: it is influenced by anecdotes dating from when deafness had begun to impair his playing. Presenting a detailed biography of Beethoven's formative years, this book reviews the composer's early career, outlining how he was influenced by teachers, theorists and instruments. Skowroneck describes the development and decline of Beethoven's pianism, and pays special attention to early pianos, their construction and their importance for Beethoven and the modern pianist. The book also includes discussions of legato and Beethoven's trills, and a complete annotated review of eyewitnesses' reports about his playing. Skowroneck presents a revised picture of Beethoven which traces his development from an impetuous young musician into a virtuoso in command of many musical resources.

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    Joanna is a Front-End Developer at Bookwitty. You can actually find a coffee cup from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw artist lounge on her desk. She has twice won certificates of honour (and a free ... Show More

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