“Brilliant....This book is a perfect marriage—or should one say, duet—of subject and author, every word as masterly as the notes of the artist it illuminates.” — Christopher Buckley, Forbes
“This is not just criticism but poetry in itself, with the additional—and inestimable—merit of being true.” — Washington Post Book World
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Rex, Dutch) is one of America’s most distinguished biographers, known for his rich, compulsively readable prose style. His biography of Beethoven, one of the most admired composers in the history of music, is above all a study of genius in action, of one of the few giants of Western culture. Beethoven is another engaging entry in the HarperCollins’ “Eminent Lives” series of biographies by distinguished authors on canonical figures.
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Well-written account of the maestro that brings Beethoven to life as a real human
Even with all his contradictions, Beethoven remains one of the leading figures of humanity.
Look Elsewhere for Ludwig Van...
Do not purchase this book unless you are desperate to read a biography on Beethoven. I found myself desperate to learn about Ludwig immediately after being struck by a fit of Beethoven fever. The book is not written well, nor is it original. The ideas are stolen bits from other biographies. It wanders about and smacks of an author who is good at writing about dead presidents, who has a thesaurus lying around, and who thought he could crank out some pulp about Ludwig as a lark. It's a mistake.
I now would have recommended to myself Thayer's biography. Watch "Immortal Beloved," then the documentary "In Search of Beethoven," then read Thayer's book, then watch the movies again. Beethoven is such a wonderfully tragic soul who left his unique emotional imprint for all to witness. Long live Herr Beethoven! ...look elsewhere for inspiration.