Beethoven

Beethoven

Beethoven

Beethoven

Synopsis

Combining musical insight with the most recent research, William Kinderman's Beethoven is both a richly drawn portrait of the man and a guide to his music. Kinderman traces the composer's intellectual and musical development from the early works written in Bonn to the Ninth Symphony and the late quartets, looking at compositions from different and original perspectives that show Beethoven's art as a union of sensuous and rational, of expression and structure. In analyses of individual pieces, Kinderman shows that the deepening of Beethoven's musical thought was a continuous process over decades of his life. In this new updated edition, Kinderman gives more attention to the composer's early chamber music, his songs, his opera Fidelio, and to a number of often-neglected works of the composer's later years and fascinating projects left incomplete. A revised view emerges from this of Beethoven's aesthetics and the musical meaning of his works. Rather than the conventional image of a heroic and tormented figure, Kinderman provides a more complex, more fully rounded account of the composer. Although Beethoven's deafness and his other personal crises are addressed, together with this ever-increasing commitment to his art, so too are the lighter aspects of his personality: his humor, his love of puns, his great delight in juxtaposing the exalted and the commonplace.

Excerpt

This book examines the main lines of Beethoven’s creative development, from his formative years at Bonn to the last string quartets written near the end of his life. The investigation is set in the context of Beethoven’s biography, but gives priority to representative musical works in the major genres: the piano sonata and variation set; the duo sonata, trio, string quartet, and other types of chamber music; the concerto, overture, and symphony; and the forms of vocal music such as the art song, opera, cantata, and sacred mass. Not to be overlooked is his contribution to patriotic program music, of which the “Battle Symphony,” Wellingtons Sieg, is the best-known example.

The introductory chapter, “Overture,” sets out the main philosophical and aesthetic argument. Like Beethoven’s second and third Leonore overtures, this one presents important themes that are later exemplified in detail. Since the primary focus is aesthetic rather than biographical, some familiarity with the musical works is presupposed; the discussions of pieces aim toward an integrated approach that avoids sacrificing artistic sensibility to systematic method. Analysis at its best is not an end in itself but a means to an end: it enables us to hear more in the music. In this sense, an analysis resembles an inward performance. It depends vitally on our imagination of the sound, and it needs to be verified by the reader: how does it feel?

The book was first published in 1995, and the chance to expand it for this new edition is a precious opportunity. I have used the available space to extend the discussions of several subjects and works: Beethoven’s “first love,” Jeannette d’Honrath; his response to Mozart as revealed through their quintets for piano and winds; the Eroica Symphony and its mythic background; the cultural and political importance of Fidelio; a new source for the Hammerklavier Sonata; transfiguration of the Arietta in the last sonata, op. 111; and structure and expression in the Quartet in A minor op. 132. The discussions of op. 16 and op. 111 overlap with my contributions to Variations on the Canon, edited by Robert Curry, David Gable, and Robert L. Marshall, and Verwandlungsmusik: Studien zur Wertungsforschung 48, edited by Andreas Dorschel, respectively; the discus-

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