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Beethoven by Maynard Solomon
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Beethoven (edition 2001)

by Maynard Solomon

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344331,845 (4.05)12
Member:datrappert
Title:Beethoven
Authors:Maynard Solomon
Info:Schirmer Trade Books (2001), Edition: 2 Revised, Paperback, 554 pages
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Rating:***1/2
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Beethoven by Maynard Solomon

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Solomon provides an exhaustively researched look at Beethoven’s life and music that will be eye-opening to anyone who is only familiar with the composer through his works. However, the author’s extreme focus on Beethoven’s (admitted) psychological issues sometimes seems to go a little too far, at the expense of exploring other influences on his musical output. Beethoven’s progressive loss of hearing is addressed at length fairly early in the narrative, but Solomon somehow misses the opportunity to muse about how this affected his composition, which is kind of amazing given how much the author goes on about Beethoven’s psychology.

There is also much here about “The Immortal Beloved”, and Solomon’s identification of the correct woman seems faultless. The intense drama of Beethoven’s “adoption” of his nephew and his ongoing conflicts with his deceased brother’s wife are also covered in excruciating detail. Some of these passages are pretty painful to read, and to be honest, Solomon’s prose is not the most scintillating. This is not that fun a book to read. But you will at least feel like you have accomplished something when you are finished!

In the end, the mystery of Beethoven’s greatness is still not completely answered. How did such a conflicted, often unhappy, and frequently mean-spirited individual manage to write some of the most beautiful and moving music of all time? Solomon’s book does seem to show the precedence of art over life, i.e., no matter what type of person Beethoven was, we are willing to forgive him anything because of the irreplaceable legacy he left us. I think I’ll go listen to the first movement of the “Moonlight” Sonata again. It always calms me down…. ( )
1 vote datrappert | Nov 29, 2012 |
I enjoyed the emphasis on psychology adopted by Maynard Solomon. As JDubba indicates, this eventually leads the story into the Immortal Beloved affair and Solomon's argument as to the identity of Beethoven's soulmate. I found the musical analysis a bit on the light side, but Solomon certainly gives the reader plenty of options in the bibliography as to where to find a more in-depth analysis. My enjoyment of the music of Beethoven as well as that of his predecessors and successors has been greatly enhanced by reading this book. ( )
  ninefivepeak | Aug 30, 2009 |
It took me some time to adapt to the author’s style of writing for this work. My initial feelings were lukewarm at best, however by the end of my journey with this book I found myself surprisingly impressed at the depth of scholarship included in such a compressed volume. Not only is the book well written for a general biography, it doubles as an invaluable reference work for Beethoven scholarship.

Solomon has structured the book into chronological sections of Beethoven’s life and development as a composer. Each chronological era is further subdivided into a series of expositional chapters describing Beethoven’s personal life during the period, followed by a chapter dedicated to his musical compositions of that period.

In general the writing tends to vacillate back and forth between very distinct blocks of text that include fact and figure citation, to distinct blocks of text expounding the author’s interpretation of those facts. I believe it was the fact and figure sections of the work that took time to adjust to stylistically. Before seeing the pattern of how the author was weaving back and forth between fact and interpretation, the dry nature of the factual rendition sections made reading pace difficult to sustain. My only other minor complaint was that at times, the interpretation tended to delve too far into clinical psychological analysis for my taste, but this is a minimal portion of the authorship and instances are never mere opinion, but substantiated by appropriately included references.

To end with more positive remarks, which this book deserves, I found the section of the book where Solomon makes his case for the identity of “The Immortal Beloved” quite entertaining. While there may never be an answer to this question regarding the one reciprocating love in Beethoven’s life, Solomon has done the research and makes a very strong argument for his candidate. If you are interested in this historical mystery, this section of the book alone makes it a worthwhile read. ( )
2 vote JDubba | Aug 24, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0825672686, Paperback)

Hailed as a masterpiece for its original interpretations of Beethoven's life and music, this edition takes into account the latest information and literature. Includes a 30-page bibliographical essay, numerous illustrations, and a full-color pictorial biography of the composer.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:29 -0400)

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