Beethoven: Music & Revolution

Did you know that 2020 was the  250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), German pianist and composer widely considered to be one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time?

His music continues to uplift and enrich the lives of people all over the globe.

The story of how he fought off despair as he lost his hearing and composed masterpiece after masterpiece, still inspires. 

A child prodigy, famed at the time for his improvisation skills at the keyboard, Beethoven would grow up to become one of the leading European composers in many genres, including piano sonatas, string quartets, symphonies, and more. The story of how he fought off despair as he lost his hearing and composed masterpiece after masterpiece, still inspires. 

Here is the website to Beethoven-Haus, his birthplace in Bonn, now a museum.

It displays the console of an organ that he played as a child at early mass at a nearby church; the viola he played in the court orchestra; and his last grand piano.

Beethoven’s house in Vienna is also a museum.

A special exhibition by The Austrian National Library in the State Hall entitled “Beethoven. World of the Man and Spark of the Gods” 

NPR’s artist page on Beethoven features interviews, features and performances.

Despite the name recognition attached to his legacy, many mysteries continue to spark the curiosity of neophytes and devotees alike. How can a deaf man compose music? What makes his music so “special”? What sort of person was the real historical Beethoven?

On the evening of September 13 at 7pm, the Library presents a virtual program entitled “Beethoven: Music and Revolution” led by musicologist and music theorist, Dr. Gil Harel.  Using video clips and listening excerpts, Dr  Harel will discuss some of Beethoven’s most celebrated works, including piano sonatas and symphonies. Using a balance of biographical investigation, score analysis, and reasonable conjecture, he will attempt to illuminate what it is about Beethoven that has cemented his status as a quasi-deity in the western world. You can register here for the program.

Below are some books, ebooks and DVDs available with your Library card that will further enlighten you about this musical genius.

Beethoven : The Man Revealed by John Suchet

This book lluminates Beethoven’s difficult childhood, his struggle to find a wife, his ungovernable temper, his emotional volatility, his tendency to push away those trying to help him, and in middle age his obsessive compulsion to control his nephew’s life.

Beethoven : The Relentless Revolutionary by John Clubbe

A fascinating and in-depth exploration of how the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and Napoleon shaped Beethoven’s political ideals and inspired his groundbreaking compositions. Clubbe illuminates Beethoven as a lifelong revolutionary through his compositions, portraits, and writings, and by setting him alongside major cultural figures of the time―among them Schiller, Goethe, Byron, Chateaubriand, and Goya.

Beethoven Variations : Poems On A Life by Ruth Padel

A fascinating poetic journey into the mind and heart of a musical genius.  Padel’s new sequence of poems, in four movements, is a personal voyage through the life and legend of one of the world’s greatest composers. She uncovers the man behind the music, charting his private thoughts and feelings through letters, diaries, sketchbooks, and the conversation books he used as his hearing declined. She gives us Beethoven as a battered four-year-old, weeping at the clavier; the young virtuoso pianist agonized by his encroaching deafness; the passionate, heartbroken lover; the clumsy eccentric making coffee with exactly sixty beans.

Beethoven : Anguish And Triumph : A Biography by Jan Swafford

This magnificent biography of Beethoven peels away layers of legend to get to the living, breathing human being who composed some of the world’s most iconic music.

Also available as an ebook on OverDrive

Copying Beethoven (DVD)

This movie gives a fictional take on the triumphs and heartaches of Ludwig van Beethoven’s last years. When young Anna Holz, a Viennese music student is asked to transcribe scoring notes for the great Ludwig van Beethoven, she eagerly accepts. She does so despite the warnings about Beethoven’s volatile behavior. Beethoven is part maestro, part mentor and part madman. He reluctantly relies on Anna to help him realize the culmination of his art. 

Great Masters: Beethoven – His Life and Music by Robert Greenberg Audiobook

In this perceptive series of eight lectures on the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven, you will likely find that you hear his work in an entirely different way, with your insight informed by new knowledge of how Beethoven was able to create masterpieces from the crises of his life.

Immortal Beloved (DVD)

A mesmerizing mystery based on the tumultuous real life of Ludwig van Beethoven. Whether seducing regal followers or criticizing the ruling class, Beethoven made many enemies. But he also had one true love, the unnamed “Immortal Beloved” mentioned in an enigmatic letter discovered upon his death. The thrilling search for the identity of this mystery woman leads us into Beethoven’s dark past, his hidden passions, and, ultimately, into the unparalleled genius of his music.

For more reading suggestions, here are 5 books inspired by Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

Hoopla’s collection includes  musical scores of Beethoven symphonies and sonatas, some Beethoven themed fiction, and biographies. and of course, a wide selection of Beethoven’s music 

Kanopy features documentaries on Beethoven’s life and music

And here is a Beethoven themed playlist put together by Library staff from Spotify for your enjoyment!

Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

One Reply to “Beethoven: Music & Revolution”

  1. A very resourceful article on Ludwig van Beethoven, thank you! The master is one of the most important composers in the history of classical music. No wonder there are many movies and publications about his life and works.

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