200 years of the Ninth: 5 books to read on Beethoven 

Beethoven is one of, if not, the most recognisable name in classical music. Even outside of the music world, you will have trouble finding someone who has never heard of the German composer or the distinct, unapologetic opening notes to his fifth symphony. Beethoven’s work is among the most performed in classical music and in that repertoire is what some may argue is the most famous piece of classical music, Symphony No. 9. 

This year marks 200 years since the 1824 world premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Vienna. To celebrate, we have pulled together five books that will give you a greater understanding of the man and his legendary body of music. 

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
Theodore Albrecht

The Ninth Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven with its final choral movement is one of the iconic works of Western classical music. And yet, the story never fully told concerns the months leading to the symphony’s world premiere in Vienna on 7 May and repeat performance on 23 May 1824.  In his new book, Theodore Albrecht brings to life the day-to-day details that it took to stage that premiere. It’s a story of negotiating for performance halls and performers’ payments, of hand-copying legible scores and individual parts for over 120 performers, of finding financiers, as well as space and time for rehearsals. Importantly, it is also a story of the relationship between Beethoven and the musicians who performed this symphonic masterpiece. In fact, as the maddening rehearsal schedule towards the symphony’s premiere shows, it transpires that many passages of the Ninth have been tailored to specific orchestral players. 

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Beethoven’s Lives 
Lewis Lockwood

In the span of the 200 years since Beethoven’s death, many book-length interpretations of his life and work have been created by individuals, each with their own angles of vision on the subject. As Lockwood shows, each biography reflects not only the individual author’s knowledge and interests but also their inner sense of purpose. Each biography reflects the intellectual framework of the time, from the first biographical attempts made directly after the composer’s death in 1827, through to the long nineteenth century and the foundation of modern Beethoven biography, and the analytical approaches to Beethoven’s music and creative process that emerged in the twentieth century. Here, Lewis Lockwood, himself a much-lauded Beethoven biographer, tells the story of Beethoven biography, from the earliest attempts made directly after the composer’s death to the present day. Beethoven’s Lives casts a wide net, tracing the story of Beethoven biography from Anton Schindler as biographer and falsifier, through the authoritative Alexander Wheelock Thayer and down to the present. 

Beethoven’s Lives shows that our understanding of the music has always been profoundly shaped by the stories we tell about the man. – THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS

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The Creation of Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies 
Barry A.R. Cooper 

Beethoven’s nine symphonies are a cornerstone of Western classical music and have revolutionised it. Composers succeeding Beethoven found their output measured against this master’s work. But how did his symphonies come into being and how did they reach their final form? These are the questions this book seeks to answer.  

Barry Cooper has been one of the leading advocates of the need for extensive studies of Beethoven’s sketches, and we see him here applying his usual investigative rigour to the study of the symphonies. For most of the symphonies the sketches have not previously been fully examined. In contrast, Cooper’s book provides a much deeper exploration of these sketches, along with autograph scores, corrected copies and first editions, while the Beethoven correspondence offers additional information on the first publication and performances of the symphonies. The result is a clear overview of the creation of each symphony in turn, placed within the context of musical life in Beethoven’s Vienna. 

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Beethoven’s Conversation Books – V1-4 
Theodore Albrecht 

Ludwig van Beethoven is recognized the world over as a composer of musical masterpieces exhibiting heroic strength, particularly in the face of his increasing deafness from ca. 1798. By 1818, the Viennese composer had begun carrying blank booklets with him, for his acquaintances to jot their sides of conversations, while he answered aloud. Today, 139 of these booklets survive, covering the years 1818 up to the composer’s death in 1827 and including such topics as music, history, politics, art, literature, theatre, religion, and education. These important booklets are here translated into English in their entirety for the first time. The volumes in this series include an updated editorial apparatus, with revised and expanded notes and many new footnotes exclusive to this edition, and brand new introductions, which together place many of the quickly changing conversational topics into context. Due to the editor’s many years of research in Vienna, this edition represents an entirely new venture in source studies. 

A brilliantly accessible piece of scholarship. . . . As they flash from scene to scene, with a huge cast of characters taking turns in the spotlight, these extraordinary little books read like a film script, with a laconic but massive presence at its heart. It’s a goldmine for music historians, and a riveting saga for the rest of us. – Michael Church, BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE 

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The New Beethoven 
Jeremy Yudkin

Published to mark the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth, this volume presents twenty-one completely new essays on aspects of Beethoven’s personal life, his composing process, his manuscripts, and his greatest works. 

Beethoven’s music stands as a universal symbol of personal and artistic achievement. As we reach and then surpass the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth, Jeremy Yudkin has commissioned a collection of new essays from some of the most insightful writers on Beethoven’s accomplishments and brought them together in this remarkable volume. Filled with careful explanations, this book gives us completely new insights into music known and loved by people around the world. 

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Save 35% on any of these books with code BB897 

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