Jan Swafford's biographies have established him as a revered music historian, capable of bringing his subjects vibrantly to life. His magnificent new biography of Ludwig van Beethoven peels away layers of legend to get to the living, breathing human being who composed some of the world's most iconic music.
Swafford mines sources never before used in English-language biographies to reanimate the revolutionary ferment of Enlightenment-era Bonn, where Beethoven grew up and imbibed the ideas that would shape all of his future work. Swafford then tracks his subject to Vienna, capital of European music, where Beethoven built his career in the face of critical incomprehension, crippling ill health, romantic rejection, and "fate's hammer," his ever-encroaching deafness.
©2014 Jan Swafford (P)2015 Tantor
"Indeed, readers will want to refer to the book often when they listen to Beethoven. A marvelous achievement." (Booklist)
This is an exhaustive book. Not being a trained musician, I found it a little hard to follow some off the discussions of music theory. And because the author often quoted from contemporary sources certain aspects of the composer's life seems to be duplicated. I found that by printing a list of Beethoven compositions and having that available as I listened, I was able to place my favorites in context. It's hard to imagine a more complete version of a person's life from that period. A fine story well told. Had I been more musical I would have rated it much higher.
I listen to audio books as I make the 1 hr commute to and from work. I like to learn so prefer nonfiction, science or history.
The level of details available about his daily life. Letters and manuscripts (many records kept due to conversations written down because of his deafness).
I read other reviews that complained about too much musical composition details. I thought that I would still enjoy that part but found myself eventually skipping through those parts as they could only be enjoyed by another composer. I still enjoyed the book and learned much about Beethoven's life which is what I was hoping to learn.
This is a wonderfully in depth examination of Beethoven's life and his times. My only complaint is the occasional mispronunciation.
Although impossible, yes.
Yes. You cannot separate the music from the person. The author told the story of Beethoven and wove in the analysis of his music synchronized with his life.
There are other masterpiece books about Beethoven, but this one gave the most expert analysis of the music.
Beethoven's writing the Heiligenstadt Testament and his death bed.
No film could do justice to such a person.
Mr. Pritchard is an experienced and excellent narrator. His narration was wonderful, except he mispronounced "Pianoforte" 100s of times.
extremely good , well researched content on life of Beethoven. Very well written and as well very well narrated!
no..but very much liked it. (first "American" narrator I have listened to in which I really did like the tone or style of "Accent" and narration)
His upbring with a an abusive alcoholic father, his musical genius and persistence in getting every note and cord perfect, sometimes taking him weeks to accomplish.
Making what could be a tedious read a good listen.
This is a sad story, but also encouraging as you see how Beethoven struggled through his many physical ailments, tortured by his unrequited loves, but yet wrote some of the most beautiful and passionate music ever heard at his time.
Excellent biography with much attention to Beethoven's music, his compositional style, and the development of his approach to composing. One feels great empathy for Beethoven while acknowledging his flaws as a person. He was both amazingly generous and sometimes quite stingy, sometimes very loyal to friends, other times more of a social misfit.
What I appreciated most was the analysis of the turning points of his career and the detailed discussions of crucial pieces, from their significance in the history of music to more fine grained exploration of details ranging from key signatures to ways Beethoven moved toward and away from other composers, whether Haydn, Mozart, or Bach.
I recommend the book to those who have an equal interest in Beethoven's life and Beethoven's music.
The narrator, Michael Prichard, was very good.
I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book about this remarkable artist. The narrator was outstanding. He removed the barrier between author and listener. It was as if the author was the narrator.
The cold staccato pompous monotone nasal and adenoidal narration of this otherwise warm, generous, human and deeply intelligent biography made it unlistenable for me.
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