BEETHOVEN: A LIFE
to educate Norman Warwick
The authoritative Beethoven biography, endorsed by and produced in close collaboration with the Beethoven-Haus Bonn, is timed for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth
With unprecedented access to the archives at the Beethoven House in Bonn, renowned Beethoven conductor and scholar Jan Caeyers expertly weaves together a deeply human and complex image of Beethoven–his troubled youth, his unpredictable mood swings, his desires, relationships, and conflicts with family and friends, the mysteries surrounding his affair with the “immortal beloved,” and the dramatic tale of his deafness. Caeyers also offers new insights into Beethoven’s music and its gradual transformation from the work of a skilled craftsman into that of a consummate artist.
we´re gonna need a bigger bookshelf for BOOK 4
Beethoven; A Life by Jan Caeyers.
Publisher University of California Press
Publish Date June 21, 2022
Dimensions 5.98 X 8.98 X 1.73 inches | 1.95 pounds
Jan Caeyers is a conductor and musicologist. One of Europe’s preeminent experts on Beethoven, he is the music director of the Beethoven orchestra Le Concert Olympique and a member of the Department of Musicology at KU Leuven.
“Beethoven, A Life continues the journey towards a more complex and nuanced picture of the great composer. . . . Caeyers seeks to unravel the networks that influenced Beethoven’s career, to paint portraits of those who supported him, and to outline the many interests that were at play in forming Beethoven both as a man and an artist. . . . The result is a very readable book that, as a by-product, offers a generous supply of scene-setting detail. This ranges from life in Vienna in the early 19th century to the grinding economic impact of the French revolution and its aftermath, and even the bathing customs in Bohemian spa towns.”
FT Books of the Year 2020– “Financial Times”
“Among the books about the legend . . . in this anniversary year, the most substantial is Jan Caeyers’ Beethoven: A Life, a magisterial account, rich in archival findings, translated with revisions from the German edition of 2009.” Books of the Year 2020
“Times Literary Supplement”
Notable Music Books of 2020–Alex Ross, “The Rest is Noise”
“Detailed and engaging, this fitting tribute to the iconic composer will enrich anyone’s enjoyment and appreciation of his great music.” “Library Journal”
The author of Beethoven: A Life, in speaking to the EC Press Blog, ´where bright minds share bold ideas´ explained why he was drawn to the composer´s life and works.,
´Beethoven’s music fascinates like no other, as it stimulates in equal measure both the head and the heart—facets in music that are often diametrically opposed. Not only did Beethoven push the musical language of his day to its limits, but he also conceived of an entirely new musical grammar. One significant consequence of his works was the introduction of the concept of “innovation” as a key parameter in the evaluation of new music.
A noteworthy aspect of Beethoven’s oeuvre is that it covers every genre of the time, ranging from major vocal, orchestral, and chamber works to the smallest occasional pieces. Each one bears his unique compositional signature and hallmark of quality—none of his works drops below a certain critical quality threshold. And in contrast to the great, tormented, and majestic works (da-da-da-DAAAA) that are part of the mythical image of Beethoven cultivated in the nineteenth century, there exists a broad spectrum of compositions characterized by tenderness, lyricism, pathos, and even wit. These elements are reflected in Beethoven’s own personality; especially in his youth, he was often described as an amiable, charming, and sportive young man.
This biographer that the life Beethoven lived was in many ways a product of his time.
´Át a critical period in history, during the transition from the old feudal system to the rise of the middle classes. Not only did he express the changing Zeitgeist in his music, but he also redefined the profession of “composer” in both a practical and psychological sense. He saw the shifts in society and turned them expertly to his advantage, capitalizing creatively on emerging patterns in musical life and consumption.
At the same time, Beethoven’s music is timeless. It is based on universal and unchanging laws of beauty, which means that even when its high degree of unpredictability sends it to emotional extremes, the listener needs not fear a loss of overall cohesion´.
Caeyers even discussed what musical piece best represents the dynamism, complexity, and enormity of the composer’s persona?
´I believe that Beethoven’s greatest achievement is the Missa solemnis, which he worked on for nearly four years (with a few interruptions). This period was preceded by nearly ten years of preparatory study, which allowed Beethoven—who had barely even attended school—to draw from a well-filled autodidactic wellspring of musical, literary, iconographic, theological, and liturgical knowledge. Thanks to his sixth sense for musical proportion and structure, which he continued to refine and develop throughout his life, he was able to incorporate this broad spectrum of expertise into a single homogenous work without permitting rhetorical detail to produce compositional tunnel vision. The Missa solemnis can also be regarded as Beethoven’s ideological and spiritual testament: a message to humankind that transcends the realm of music and is as current today as ever´´ .
In the 250th celebration of Beethoven’s birth, considered what he hoped readers might take away from his biography of Beethoven.
´Any biography of Beethoven is in fact a portrait of the universal artist, and demonstrates that the most fascinating careers are never straightforward. Granted, the young Beethoven was incredibly talented, but his genius was the result of the determination and imagination with which he responded to the obstacles in his path. In this sense, he is the prototypical modern citizen who, regardless of background or origin, can take control of their life in order to achieve greatness. Beethoven also left an important legacy that can be interpreted as a spiritual missive: the notion that striving for excellence in Beauty is what enables humankind to rise above the brutal and materialistic nature of reality, and in so doing, to give individual meaning to existence. In this sense, engaging with Beethoven—both his life and his music—is a source of inspiration to us all.
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Recommended titles of books about Music and Musicians in our weekly feature, You´re Gonna Need A Bigger Bookshelf can be found on line at Powell´s City Of Books at
Today´s article was collated by Norman Warwick, a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.
Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio 4.
As a published author and poet he was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (where he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.
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