Three new Beethoven books hit the shelves

Posted on: July 14, 2020

“Beethoven biographies have poured forth steadily since his death,” writes Fiona Maddocks in Sunday’s (7/12) Guardian (U.K.). “Paul Griffiths (former music critic of the New Yorker) and Jessica Duchen (the Independent critic, and a blogger) have produced novels to coincide with the inevitably thwarted anniversary: Griffiths’s Mr. Beethoven … with a formidable display of fantasy scholarship, depicts him living in and travelling to America. Duchen’s Immortal … explores the enduring mystery of Beethoven’s unidentified ‘immortal beloved,’ if she existed at all. [Laura] Tunbridge’s pithy A Life in Nine Pieces is different and welcome: a biography presented through the focus of nine different compositions, each casting light on aspects of Beethoven’s life, character and, given equal and readily comprehensible attention, the music.… Tunbridge, an Oxford professor … writes clearly, explaining technical terms on the go and with ease: never an easy combination…. In 288 pages, Tunbridge gives us detail enough to create a rounded portrait. She challenges, by example rather than theory, the presumption that Beethoven was curmudgeonly, friendless, loveless. Eccentric, yes, and with a canny knack at getting the best deals for his work, but a sympathetic figure too, frustrated by his ever-growing deafness.”