Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Lewis Lockwood's Beethoven: The Music and the Life

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Lewis Lockwood's Beethoven: The Music and the Life

Article excerpt

Lewis Lockwood's Beethoven: The Music and The Life New York: W. W. Norton, 2002. xix, 604 pp. ISBN 0-393-05081-5 (hardback) $39.95.


AS ONE CONTEMPLATES THE VAST LITERATURE ABOUT BEETHOVEN THAT HAS BEEN PUBLISHED OVER THE GENERATIONS, a teasing question arises: what is it about a certain few books that has caused them to stand out as the best-selling Beethoven books of their time? This question was already answered back in 1859, in the title of a book by Adolph Bernhard Marx, Ludwig van Beethoven: Leben und Schaffen (Life and Works). Marx was convinced that, in the case of Beethoven, a scholar cannot explore this composer's life without discussing his music-just as a scholar cannot explore this man's music without discussing his life. Marx's book was a hefty affair in two volumes. Despite its substantial cost it went through six editions (the last of these in 1911, long after Marx's death). The success of Marx's book was not the result of his treatment of Beethoven's life; rather it had to do with his discussions of Beethoven's music. A striking feature of his book is that it included some 450 musical examples. These had to be engraved by hand, but such was Marx's conviction about the importance of musical notation in the discussion of music that he was able to persuade his publisher to include all these examples. His conviction proved reasonable. In the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth editions of his book-which were now the work of Gustav Behncke-the number of musical examples increased to over 500. (The demand for Marx's book-a demand that continued for a full half-century-calls into question a rule of publishing trade in our own time, that the presence of musical examples in a book discourages sales.)

Just as Marx's book was tided Ludwig van Beethoven: Life and Works, the newest Beethoven book of the twenty-first century, by Lewis Lockwood, is tided Beethoven: The Music and the Life. The greatest strength of Lockwood's book-and this book has many strengths-is the unusually enlightening way this scholar discusses Beethoven's music. It is not surprising to learn that Lockwood's Beethoven, first distributed last November, is now approaching its fourth printing. This work will predictably become the best-selling Beethoven book of the early twenty-first century-and most deservedly.

As with virtually every Beethoven book these days, Lockwood's biography benefits from Maynard Solomon's Beethoven. This classic study was published in 1977 and has been translated into seven languages. It has recently been revised and up-dated, and stands as the best-selling Beethoven book of the twentieth century-with more sales ahead. In his introduction Solomon explains his mission: "... to illuminate the composer's psychological development, to deal with his personal relationships in their evolution, and to demonstrate significant connections between his life and his works." To this end, each of the four parts of Solomon's book culminates with a chapter tided "The Music." Solomon's discussions of Beethoven's music are full of wisdom. He makes it a policy, however, not to discuss music in technical terms; and so in his book we never encounter musical notation.

In contrast, a vital feature of Lockwood's book is that this author does indeed discuss Beethoven's music in technical terms. He goes about this judiciously, never overwhelming the reader with unnecessary detail. As a result of this approach, Lockwood is able to share with his readers his especially admirable insights.

One of Lockwood's most welcome contributions is the way he frees us from various anti-Romantic attitudes of the twentieth century. Here is one amusing case. In Douglas Johnson's meticulous list of Beethoven's works in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (back in 1980) the Pianoforte Sonata in D Minor, Opus 31, no. 2, is given its traditional title, the "Tempest" Sonata. Certain scholars objected, however, pointing out that this title originated in a story told by the often unreliable Anton Schindler. …

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