Pulitzer-prize winning biographer Edmund Morris interweaves the personal history of the world's most famous composer with an insightful exploration of the way Beethoven's life was reflected and embodied in his genius and his music. Eminent Lives is an exciting and groundbreaking series that pairs great biographers, historians and novelists with ...
Pulitzer-prize winning biographer Edmund Morris interweaves the personal history of the world's most famous composer with an insightful exploration of the way Beethoven's life was reflected and embodied in his genius and his music. Eminent Lives is an exciting and groundbreaking series that pairs great biographers, historians and novelists with iconic subjects, building on a biographical tradition that can be traced back to Aubrey's 'Brief Lives', Dr Johnson's 'Lives of the Poets' and Lytton Strachey's 'Eminent Victorians'. 'To preserve a becoming brevity which excludes everything that is redundant and nothing that is significant,' wrote Strachey. 'That, surely, is the first duty of the biographer.' 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.'
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I loved Morris's biography of President Reagan ("Dutch") almost as much as his first volume on Theodore Roosevelt, so I thought he mainly did politicians. I was pleasantly surprised. For its length and scope, this is an excellent biography, especially for non-musicians. (Professional musicians of course already have a vast library of Beethoven studies and would not be interested in this.) The writing is crisp, the necessary historical context is interesting in its own right.
Apr 20, 2007
this book is very short, about 200 pages, and it is pocket size. you do get enough info. about Beethoven, but this book is not for general readers. I love classic music, I listen to it all the time, but I have no basic training. this book spent a third going into details about the music Beethoven wrote, using a lot of music language which i find very boring. if you know music theory you may not find so. i really liked 'Dutch', also written by Edmund Morris. that was the reason i chose this book when i decided to read about Beethoven. i have watched movies 'Immortal love' and 'copying Beethoven' recently. after reading this book, i guess these movies dramatized and stretched truth a bit. overall it is a nice break from huge books like 'Dutch'.
Publishers Weekly, 2005-08-01 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 2005 Reed Business Information.
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