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Beethoven: The Man Revealed Hardcover – December 10, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In his sixth book on Beethoven, Suchet eschews musical analysis and the source references academics demand to limn the life and personality out of which the music arose. Beethoven’s irascible, controlling, often callous, and even cruel personality constitutes the archetype of the great but monstrous titan of art, and just how much his life was to blame for his difficulty may not have been as thoroughly appreciated as Suchet now allows it to be. Besides the legendary hearing loss that began in his twenties, Beethoven suffered at base from an irresponsible, alcoholic father (who yet fostered his son’s musical career); an erratic, possibly demented mother; and a consequently chaotic family environment. Still, early on, before the deafness, before recognition as a musical paragon of the highest possible order, Beethoven could, as the report-card phrase puts it, work and play well with others, especially fellow musicians, and he acquired several long-haul friends who rolled with his punches, though, alas, no lover (he was just too gauche for even the most admiring woman). But his attempt to shape his untalented nephew into a second him is unconscionable, as are his own bad habits—he seems to have died of alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. Yet, often concurrently with the worst personal strife, he wrote the sublimest music. Consider Suchet’s new biography an ideal “first book” on Beethoven. --Ray Olson

Review

"Suchet’s explanations of Beethoven’s music sing to us almost as if we could hear it. . . . Kudos to the author for this deeply moving, outstanding biography." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A big, bold biography." —Library Journal

"Suchet's conversational approach allows him to present the known details of Beethoven's life while speculating effectively on the unknown. . . . A colloquial, picaresque biography." —Shelf Awareness

"Breathtaking . . . Suchet has turned his vast knowledge, imagination and passion [into] . . . a memorable life that abounds with the kind of details often overlooked by researchers focused only on verifiable facts. . . . [His] intuitive understanding of human nature, social history and psychological insight . . . unwraps Beethoven’s life as a lively connected narrative, energized on every page . . . What is refreshing and novel here is the imaginative and engaging way in which a formidably tangled skein of pre-existing strands has been deftly unraveled and re-woven into a deeply moving portrait." —Bookreporter

"I have loved and performed Beethoven since I was very young and have read a good deal about the life and times of this giant among composers, but John Suchet’s infectious enthusiasm and fascination, probing the details behind every step of his life, and turning sensitive sleuth when the facts are less clear, opens new vistas and makes for a gripping and thought-provoking read. —Howard Shelley, Pianist and Conductor

"John Suchet offers us a fascinating and touchingly human insight into a great figure who has consumed him for decades. By exercising a genuine authority in identifying how Beethoven, the man, manifests himself in our appreciation of the music, Suchet brings an incisive freshness to an extraordinary life. The results in his 'Beethovenia' are always rigorously researched and accompanied by a child-like passion to communicate the composer's true essence." —Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, Principal of the Royal Academy of Music

"Beethoven's music continues to form one of the cornerstones of the concert repertoire some 200 years after it was written, and its sheer ingenuity and inventiveness never cease to amaze the perceptive listener. Knowing the context in which it was written can aid our understanding of the music, and every biography of Beethoven's unusual life has something new to say. Although some aspects of his life, such as his deafness, and his great love for his only nephew, are well known, this book also includes many details that are less familiar. John Suchet writes with infectious enthusiasm, and his avoidance of technical detail makes this a biography that can be read and understood by anyone interested in the composer." —Professor Barry Cooper, University of Manchester
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First American Edition edition (December 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080212206X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802122063
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #903,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Although I'm not much for reading biographies, I am a musician who found this treatment of the life of this great composer mesmerizing and engaging. Suchet's attention to detail and well researched material comes shining through. He lures the reader into the life of this troubled musical genius and pulls aside the curtain to see the real man behind the music and the myth. It read more like a novel in some ways that a dry biography as Suchet effectively uses invented, along with actual well documented, dialogue that transported me back to early 19th century Vienna. The author's knowledge of music is apparent to say the least, as he describes Beethovan's compositions in technical terms while also giving insight into the mind of the composer at the time. I had a playlist of Beethovan's great works playing in my head while I read, from great works like the lyrical Pastorale symphony (no. 6) to the intense and technically difficult Kreutzer violin concerto. Yet he writes with an effortless style and plain language that can be understood by non music readers as well. Suchet also meticulously documents his sources and makes it clear, with little apology, where the facts end and his supposition takes over. Yet even then it all fits together in such a plausible way as to feel as if Beethovan pops off the page in all his disheveled and boisterous nature. For anyone who loves classical music and has an appreciation for Beethovan and an interest in learning more of the man behind the music this is a must read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As the jacket states, this book not written for the musicologist. Yet, there are enough musical references (how could there not be?) to satisfy most musically inclined people and to appeal to a broader audience. The attention to detail is engaging re his early life and sheds light on the man/composer he became. I found Suchet's suppositions drawn from the facts that are known to be of interest as well. All in all, an excellent treatment of the genius with all his flaws.
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Format: Hardcover
He was an emotional basket case, an incorrigible misogynist, a social misfit, a shocking child abuser, a cheat, a liar, a grievance collector, a tenant from hell, a friend who would outrage even one’s sworn enemies. Those are only a few of the character traits attached to the unruly protagonist of John Suchet’s evocative new biography, BEETHOVEN: THE MAN REVEALED.

But the abrasive, even repugnant exterior enveloped an entity so musically gifted and spiritually complex that even one of the world’s most diligent Beethoven authorities acknowledges that writing the definitive, utterly complete story of the great composer’s life may be an unattainable goal. Nevertheless, Suchet comes so close it’s breathtaking.

Not content with half-a-dozen previous books aimed at serious performers, scholars and fellow musicologists, Suchet has turned his vast knowledge, imagination and passion for the Romantic-era genius to the audience that perhaps knows him best --- countless loyal music amateurs like those who tune in to his popular shows on Britain’s Classic FM radio network. That’s most of us; you and me, the friends we go to the occasional symphony concert with, the parents who really want to hear their children try and try again to play through Fur Elise, the adults who put piano lessons on their bucket-lists and actually follow through, people of all ages and walks of life who find priceless solace and pleasure in hearing a Beethoven symphony or string quartet.

For them, and anyone who cares about the profound and often visceral human story that forms any great artist, Suchet has crafted a memorable life that abounds with the kind of detail often overlooked by researchers focused only on verifiable facts.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Liebhaber," as used by Jan Swafford in his biography of Beethoven, is German for "music lover" and is the primary audience for this book, as author John Suchet makes clear from the outset. That being said, after the massive tome of Swafford's 'Anguish and Triumph,' this biography seemed rather slight and lightweight. Suchet's approach, "reaching the music through the man, rather than the man through the music," was fine but the absence of pretty much any musical analysis was very noticeable. Ultimately, this is probably the better book for someone who doesn't read music or play an instrument, even if there is rampant (though admitted) speculation given the paucity of primary sources for Beethoven's life. Still, for someone who is a musician (me), this pales in comparison to the Swafford book I read just before this.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
this is a fantastic book. Up front, the author tells you he's going to take liberties but ascribing conversations and events to Beethoven by interpreting the situation and using what he knows to balance what he suspects, and it works. Reads like a novel. a great fun revelation about the greatest classical composer.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an extraordinary biography from an author who dedicated almost 3 decades of his life to study Beethoven. For me, the most moving part was to read his handwritten Last Will that he wrote around 1803 while he was relaxing at a suburb of Vienna escaping the noise of the capital city of music, a noise that he was ironically unable to hear. His deafness, that he considered a defect that a musician ought not to have, frustrated him and drove him to the verge of suicide and according to his Last Will only his art saved him. It frustrated him that he could not hear the song or the flute of a Shepard. He was able to hear music in his head but his ability to compose for human voice (operas) was not as refined that is why he did not write any opera after his failed one. In his last will, one can hear his humanity, his vulnerability, his love, delicate heart, and his triumph over his deafness. He also opened a new chapter of his life accepting his deafness, declared that he was unsatisfied with his works, although he was at the peak of his music career as a composer and a virtuoso. He came back to Vienna and after that Last Will a new era of his life began until his death and the flow of magical compositions never ceased. With the composition of his 3rd symphony the Eroica, not only a new Beethoven emerged, but he changed the course of music for ever. He knew his place in history. The author has a clear vision for his book. All the stages of Beethoven life are clearly outlined. All his friends, enemies, all the women he loved, all the apartments he lived in, his unkempt appearance, his disregard to rules and norms, all explained in a most organized way. It reads like a novel.
The book puts us in the musical life of Vienna in the 19th century.
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