5 books about Beethoven to read on the 250th anniversary year of his birth

We are celebrating the 250th birthday year of the world’s most influential composer the way we know best – with books!

The following is a selection of books on Ludwig van Beethoven. Of course, the music cannot be separated from the man and is an ever-consuming preoccupation of the authors featured.

You would think that in 2020 we would know everything that there is to know about the German composer of the most famous notes in the history of music, but new discoveries are still being made in the year of what has been dubbed Beethoven 250, and this list showcases this fascinating scholarship.

The New Beethoven

edited by Jeremy Yudkin

This essay collection brings together some of the most respected Beethoven scholars and incorporates the latest archival research to give us completely new insights into the music known and loved by people around the world. The new revelations include a newly discovered cello owned by the composer, the Premiere of the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven’s relationship with the Archduke Rudolph of Austria (1788–1831), and the two strikingly different finales for String Quartet, Op. 130.

Beethoven’s Lives

by Lewis Lockwood

In the span of nearly 200 years since Beethoven’s death, there have been enough books published on the composer’s life to fill the Theater an der Wien from floor to gilded ceiling. But in #Beethoven250, it may be wise to question how biographers have distorted different elements of Beethoven’s life and career. Beethoven’s Lives, by leading scholar Lewis Lockwood, is a historiography of Beethoven biography for those who wish to navigate from their copies of the Anton Schindler forgery, through to the path-breaking work of Alexander Wheelock Thayer, to modern times.

From Silence to Sound

by Jeremy Yudkin

Where shall we start on the 250th anniversary year of Beethoven’s birth, maybe at the beginning? During the opening moments of classical music both halves of the human brain are engaged, physiological arousal and mental attention are heightened, and there is a spike in neuron firing. This book combines musical and rhetorical theory, neuroscience and psychology, to analyse the beginnings of nearly 200 compositions, offering a new analysis of Beethoven’s music for musicologists and Beethoven enthusiasts alike.

Beethoven’s Cello: Five Revolutionary Sonatas and Their World

by Marc D. Moskovitz and R. Larry Todd

In 1796, the young composer presented his first two cello sonatas, Op. 5, at the court of Frederick William II, an avid cellist. Beethoven continued to develop the potential of the duo partnership in his three other cello sonatas – Op. 69 and Op. 102, No. 1 and No. 2. These revolutionary sonatas forever altered the cello repertoire. This book, written by a cellist- pianist author duo, is an essential introduction to those desiring a comprehensive understanding of Beethoven’s cello sonatas.

Beethoven’s Conversation Books, Volume 1 to Volume 3

edited and translated by Theodore Albrecht

This extraordinary set of original documents, which once rode around Vienna in Beethoven’s coat pocket, allows us to eavesdrop on the composer’s intimate conversations with his friends at the dinner table. When ear trumpets failed him, the increasingly deaf composer asked his companions to jot down their side of the conversation in notebooks, while he answered aloud. Today, 139 of these booklets survive, covering the years 1818 up to the composer’s death in 1827. In post-Napoleonic Europe, table-talk topics included politics, literature, art, and theatre, and there’s a lot about Beethoven’s peculiar eating habits! Volume 3 (published May 2020) will contain revolutionary evidence that Beethoven could hear his final symphony after all.


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