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Beethoven: The Music and the Life

Beethoven: The Music and the Life

by Lewis Lockwood

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An authoritative work offering a fresh look at Beethoven’s life, career, and milieu. “Magisterial” —New York Review of Books.

This brilliant portrayal weaves Beethoven's musical and biographical stories into their historical and artistic contexts. Lewis Lockwood sketches the turbulent personal, historical, political, and


An authoritative work offering a fresh look at Beethoven’s life, career, and milieu. “Magisterial” —New York Review of Books.

This brilliant portrayal weaves Beethoven's musical and biographical stories into their historical and artistic contexts. Lewis Lockwood sketches the turbulent personal, historical, political, and cultural frameworks in which Beethoven worked and examines their effects on his music. "The result is that rarest of achievements, a profoundly humane work of scholarship that will—or at least should—appeal to specialists and generalists in equal measure" (Terry Teachout, Commentary). Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.  "Lewis Lockwood has written a biography of Beethoven in which the hours that Beethoven spent writing music—that is, his methods of working, his interest in contemporary and past composers, the development of his musical intentions and ideals, his inner musical life, in short—have been properly integrated with the external events of his career. The book is invaluable." —Charles Rosen "Lockwood writes with poetry and clarity—a rare combination. I especially enjoyed the connection that he makes between the works of Beethoven and the social and political context of their creation—we feel closer to Beethoven the man without losing our wonder at his genius." —Emanuel Ax "The magnum opus of an illustrious Beethoven scholar. From now on, we will all turn to Lockwood's Beethoven: The Music and the Life for insight and instruction." —Maynard Solomon "This is truly the Beethoven biography for the intelligent reader. Lewis Lockwood speaks in his preface of writing on Beethoven's works at 'a highly accessible descriptive level.' But he goes beyond that. His discussion of the music, based on a deep knowledge of its context and the composition processes behind it, explains, elucidates, and is not afraid to evaluate; while the biographical chapters, clearly and unfussily written, and taking full account of the newest thinking on Beethoven, align closely with the musical discussion. The result is a deeply perceptive book that comes as close as can be to presenting the man and the music as a unity."—Stanley Sadie, editor, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians "Impressive for both its scholarship and its fresh insights, this landmark work—fully accessible to the interested amateur—immediately takes its place among the essential references on this composer and his music."—Bob Goldfarb, KUSC-FM 91.5 "Lockwood writes like an angel: lucid, enthusiastic, stirring and enlightening. Beethoven has found his ablest interpreter."—Jonathan Keates, The Spectator  "There is no better survey of Beethoven's compositions for a wide audience."—Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times Book Review

Editorial Reviews

Michael Kimmelman
In, Beethoven, Lockwood, an eminent Beethoven scholar and Harvard professor, has put a lifetime of study and wisdom into this far-ranging, temperate biography, which, while summarizing all sorts of specialized and academically fashionable works about Beethoven, speaks in a clear and prudent, voice.

Beethoven's music, he reminds us, has survived through difficult times because it is the exemplar of noble aspiration -- and it is beautiful. It's ''a defense against the darkness.
New York Times

Publishers Weekly
Although he breaks no new ground, Lockwood (a Harvard professor emeritus in music and a leading Beethoven scholar) does offer an extremely cogent account of the works as they relate to the well-known three phases of Beethoven's remarkable creative life. It's appropriate that the title places the music first, because it is Lockwood's highly observant account of the composer's musical development that will strike readers most forcibly. There is nothing much new to say about the life, and here Lockwood only goes through the motions, pausing only to observe that despite all the speculation, it is doubtful that Beethoven ever enjoyed the physical love of a woman, notwithstanding his many infatuations and sometimes passionate letters. On the music, however, he has many fine insights, particularly into Beethoven's very conscious and determined development of his skills, and his often-neglected splendor as a melodist. A regular Beethoven listener could do worse than use Lockwood's accounts of the works, particularly the middle and late ones-he's inclined to give scant shrift to anything before the Opus 18 quartets-as concert or record notes, written at exactly the right pitch for knowledgeable music lovers who don't have a score in front of them. Lockwood is also thorough regarding the impact of such previous masters as Handel, Bach, Mozart and Haydn on Beethoven's art. Many illustrations not seen by PW; in an unusual extra, about 100 musical examples linked to the book are available on a dedicated Web site. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
A recognized authority on Beethoven, Lockwood (music, emeritus, Harvard) concentrates primarily on his subject's music and development as a composer before dedicating separate chapters to biography and the historical, political, and cultural milieus. This particularly refreshing approach, modeled on Abraham Pasis's "Subtle Is the Lord": The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein and Nicholas Boyle's Goethe: The Poet and the Age, differs from other recent studies that focused more on Beethoven's life (e.g., Barry Cooper's Beethoven and Maynard Solomon's Beethoven). All of Lockwood's narrative, including the discussion of specific compositions, will be accessible to serious music lovers with only a modest technical background. This results partly from an interesting innovation, especially pleasing to specialists-100 additional musical examples are available on a companion web site (www.wwnorton.com/ trade/lockwood), allowing the author to be far less technical in his discussion. Lockwood's study offers a new and authoritative interpretation of a prodigiously gifted and complex man and artist who saw himself as Mozart's heir. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/02.]-Timothy J. McGee, Univ. of Toronto Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An outstanding new survey of the great composer’s life and works, marred slightly by gimmickry.

Lockwood (Music Emeritus/Harvard) does a superb job synthesizing the painful details of Beethoven’s tortured existence (1770–1827) with the genius of his compositions. His loving mother died while he was a teenager, and his alcoholic father was only interested in promoting his son as the "second Mozart." Fortunately, this did not preclude Beethoven’s obtaining a first-class musical education. He was also fortunate to grow up in late-18th-century Bonn, which possessed a rich and varied musical culture from which he absorbed much. Thus, when the young man arrived in Vienna to study with Haydn and seek his fortune, he was fully formed as a musician and quickly rose to fame. While there are no startling new revelations here, Lockwood benefits from and integrates well the increasingly available information from Beethoven’s voluminous diaries, sketchbooks, and conversation books, which vividly place the reader at the scene. (See, for example, the deeply moving description of the celebrated "Heiligenstadt Testament" and the composer’s agony over his increasing deafness.) At the same time, Lockwood is skeptical of and careful to avoid contemporary biographers’ readiness to offer up inane circumstantial explanations of compositional idioms. The one disappointment here is the omission of music examples in the text in favor of posting them on a dedicated Web site (not in operation at the time of this writing). This seems a cumbersome substitute for having the notes on the same page as the analysis. It will make no difference to those who don’t read music, of course, but to those who can, it is theequivalent of reading a book about physics with all the math left out. Strongly compensating, however, is Lockwood’s remarkable ability to describe music in words.

The only book on Beethoven most music lovers will need.

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Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author

Lewis Lockwood taught at Princeton and Harvard universities, where he is Fanny Peabody Professor of Music Emeritus. His Beethoven: The Music and the Life was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. He resides in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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