Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a genius so universal that his popularity, extraordinary even during his lifetime, has never ceased to grow. It now encircles the globe: Beethoven's most famous works are as beloved in Beijing as they are in Boston.
Edmund Morris, the author of three bestselling presidential biographies and a lifelong devotee of Beethoven, brings the great composer to life as a man of astonishing complexity and overpowering intelligence. A gigantic, compulsively creative personality unable to tolerate constraints, he was not so much a social rebel as an astute manipulator of the most powerful and privileged aristocrats in Germany and Austria, at a time when their world was threatened by the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.
But Beethoven's achievement rests in his immortal music. Struggling against progressive, incurable deafness (which he desperately tried to keep secret), he nonetheless produced towering masterpieces, such as his iconic Fifth and Ninth symphonies. With sensitivity and insight, Edmund Morris illuminates Beethoven's life, including his interactions with the women he privately lusted for but held at bay, and his work, whose grandeur and beauty were conceived "on the other side of silence."
This addition to the Eminent Lives Series by Pulitzer-winning biographer Morris (Theodore Rex; Dutch) does not disappoint. The author provides a close analysis of only one cantata, the early (written at 19) and relatively obscure Joseph II, but leaves no doubt he could easily do the same for the more radical and magisterial works, which are "bothersome to orthodox opinion" about Beethoven's time, were the ground not so well trodden. Outsize in talent, Beethoven was a difficult, ugly little man, uncomfortable with women (Immortal Beloved and a certain amount of "groupie" attention notwithstanding, he seems never to have had a successful romantic relationship), snobbish and a raving egotist. His seven-year legal battle with his sister-in-law over custody of her son assumed "manic proportions" and set him "drifting toward paranoia." Yet not only did his prodigious productivity never falter, his psychosis, alcoholism, chronic rages, famous deafness and increasing illness ("dropsy";edema;cirrhosis and possibly lupus killed him at 56) actually seemed to spur his genius: the greatest works are the later ones. Morris clearly admires his subject not only for the work but also for his constant fight against the odds, and he has written an ideal biography for the general reader. (Oct. 4) Copyright (c) Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Good short biography of Beethoven
Posted July 13, 2009 by Gadgester , New YorkThis is a short biography of the greatest composer who ever lived. Morris gives a lucid account of the composer's life. He writes in a way that makes the story interesting. For a more serious and more accurate biography, read Barry Cooper's 2000 "Beethoven" book.
2 . Beethoven by Edmund Morris
Posted August 09, 2007 by ekkarcher , Denver, COI learned about this book during a pre-concert lecture. It is an excellent general biography for someone wanted a substantive overview of the subject's life. Good glossary, but the text is not dependent upon an ability to read music.
October 04, 2005
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