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Ludwig van Beethoven
Suggested Reading



"True art endures forever, and the true artist delights in the works of great minds."

Beethoven Letters Journals and Conversations
(Michael Hamburger, editor)


Beethoven's Concertos : History, Style, Performance : Music Examples
(Leon Plantinga)
Analysis of Beethoven's concertos, at least in the hands of Leon Plantinga, yields insights into almost every aspect of the composer's work. Originally Beethoven withheld and revised his piano concertos for his own use and did not perform them after they had been published. But by the time of the Fourth Concerto, Plantinga sees a decided shift to the concerto as a work meant to stand on its own, as a symphony does. In discussing the other works, Plantinga makes an effective comparison of the B-flat Concerto with Haydn's music rather than (as is conventional) with Mozart's. Even readers who are not pianists will find helpful, practical information about when and how a soloist might participate in the orchestral sections of classical concertos, systems of tuning in the period, cadenzas, and historical ideas about tempo. They will also enjoy Plantinga's direct, colorful writing style: the last movement of the "Emperor" behaves "more like a large puppy than a reliable steed."

Beethoven: His Spiritual Development
( J.W.N. Sullivan)
Great creative artists can engage people's imagination for centuries. Beethoven, as man and composer, has inspired innumerable books both by his contemporaries and later writers, and it is proof of his endlessly fascinating, controversial nature that they all throw a different light on some aspect of his life and work. Since Sullivan wrote his book in 1927, much new information about Beethoven, his character, his illnesses, and his relationships has come to light, but it is still a valid contribution to the Beethoven literature. Sullivan's basic theory is that Beethoven's greatness lies in his extraordinary perceptions, his heightened experiences and "states of consciousness," and his ability to organize and synthesize these into a musical expression of a "view of life." He asserts that Beethoven's initially despairing, then defiant struggle against his suffering--especially his deafness and resulting isolation-- gives his middle-period works their heroism, and that his ultimate acceptance of it as necessary to his creativity marks the peak of his "spirituality" and gives his latest works their unparalleled sublimity. Sullivan, who is not a musician, offers some interesting, if sometimes extravagantly extramusical, analyses of Beethoven's works. He also makes subjective, high-handed value judgments. But his book brings up questions about beauty and greatness in art, the relationship between moral character and genius, and the impact of a person's personal experiences upon creativity--all age-old but forever timely.

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