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Beethoven: The Music and the Life Hardcover – December 16, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although he breaks no new ground, Lockwood (a Harvard professor emeritus in music and a leading Beethoven scholar) does offer an extremely cogent account of the works as they relate to the well-known three phases of Beethoven's remarkable creative life. It's appropriate that the title places the music first, because it is Lockwood's highly observant account of the composer's musical development that will strike readers most forcibly. There is nothing much new to say about the life, and here Lockwood only goes through the motions, pausing only to observe that despite all the speculation, it is doubtful that Beethoven ever enjoyed the physical love of a woman, notwithstanding his many infatuations and sometimes passionate letters. On the music, however, he has many fine insights, particularly into Beethoven's very conscious and determined development of his skills, and his often-neglected splendor as a melodist. A regular Beethoven listener could do worse than use Lockwood's accounts of the works, particularly the middle and late ones-he's inclined to give scant shrift to anything before the Opus 18 quartets-as concert or record notes, written at exactly the right pitch for knowledgeable music lovers who don't have a score in front of them. Lockwood is also thorough regarding the impact of such previous masters as Handel, Bach, Mozart and Haydn on Beethoven's art. Many illustrations not seen by PW; in an unusual extra, about 100 musical examples linked to the book are available on a dedicated Web site.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A recognized authority on Beethoven, Lockwood (music, emeritus, Harvard) concentrates primarily on his subject's music and development as a composer before dedicating separate chapters to biography and the historical, political, and cultural milieus. This particularly refreshing approach, modeled on Abraham Pasis's "Subtle Is the Lord": The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein and Nicholas Boyle's Goethe: The Poet and the Age, differs from other recent studies that focused more on Beethoven's life (e.g., Barry Cooper's Beethoven and Maynard Solomon's Beethoven). All of Lockwood's narrative, including the discussion of specific compositions, will be accessible to serious music lovers with only a modest technical background. This results partly from an interesting innovation, especially pleasing to specialists-100 additional musical examples are available on a companion web site (www.wwnorton.com/ trade/lockwood), allowing the author to be far less technical in his discussion. Lockwood's study offers a new and authoritative interpretation of a prodigiously gifted and complex man and artist who saw himself as Mozart's heir. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
Timothy J. McGee, Univ. of Toronto
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (December 16, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393050815
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393050813
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #499,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Lewis Lockwood's "Beethoven: the Music and the Life" (2003)is an outstanding introduction to Beethoven, aimed at the nonspecialist rather than the scholar. Those readers who are new to Beethoven's music will find this book a guide to his major work. Readers familiar with Beethoven's music and life will find much to learn and enjoy as well. I found this a book to be savored. Reading the book, I think, will encourage the reader to explore further the inexhaustible richness of Beethoven's music.
Lookwood concentrates on Beethoven's compositions and on their historical and musical contexts. He does not offer a full biography of Beethoven but rather offers only sufficient broad outline of Beethoven's life to give a sense of the composer and to allow the reader to reflect upon the relationship between the life of Beethoven and his music. Lookwood himself has some interesting things to say on various views of this relationship. (pp 17-21)
Lockwood sees Mozart and Bach as Beethoven's primary musical influences. As a young composer, Beethoven both set out to learn from Mozart without becoming an imitator. His early works are greatly influence by Mozart, Lockwood argues, until Beethoven breaks away and finds his own voice in what Lockwood terms Beethoven's second maturity. As Beethoven continued to compose, his work becomes more influenced by the counterpoint of Bach. (Beethoven had played Bach's "well-tempered clavier" as a boy of twelve.) Bach's influence becomes increasingly apparent in the close-textured and fugal works of Beethoven's third maturity.
Lockwood basically organizes his book in terms of what he describes as Beethoven's first, second and third maturities of musical development.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a curious book. First, it leaves most of the biographical details (and psychoanalysis) to others, notably Maynard Solomon. This disappointed me, since I think some of Solomon's occasionally reductionist interpretations of Beethoven's behaviour, motivation, etc. could and should be challenged. Given that the composer had such a difficult life, fraught with political, financial and family instability as well as illness and disability, it is very important to understand more about this man of such intense and resolute character in order to more fully appreciate his music.
Second, while Lockwood's concentration on the music is interesting and sometimes insightful, it is at times difficult to understand for those without more than a passing knowledge of music theory. Furthermore, Lockwood's analysis is uneven. Some compositions such as the Missa Solemnis, Ninth Symphony and late quartets get substantial coverage, much of it remarkably good at dismissing historical criticism that has mistakenly assigned various political, sexual and other interpretations while more or less ignoring the music itself. Unfortunately, Lockwood does not give the same attention to other major compositions--the five piano concertos and the Violin Concerto among them. This also disappointed me. Given Lockwood's thought-provoking and balanced approach to the later works, it was too bad that he gave other major works more superficial or cursory treatment.
Nonetheless, this book is worth reading. Having read numerous books about Beethoven, I have come to the conclusion that no single book could possibly do justice to this complex and fascinating man and the incredible music he produced.
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Format: Paperback
Lewis Lockwood's Beethoven: the Music and the Life is a tremendous portrayal of this great composer. Lewis Lockwood is a highly recognized expert on Beethoven and is a Professor of Music at Harvard University. The book was a finalist of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. In the book, he goes into great detail about almost every one of Beethoven's pieces. He does so in a fashion that encompasses the theoretical aspects of the music, what was occurring in Beethoven's personal life and the political and historical situations at the time of his compositions. The book also includes several illustrations that consist of portions of compositional sketches, handwritten letters, and portraits of influential people in Beethoven's life. With the use of letters, conversations books and sketchings, some of which are over two hundred years old, Lockwood provides an intimate glimpse of Beethoven.

The book is divided into four different parts that cover different eras of Beethoven's life. The first discusses Beethoven's childhood up until he moved to Vienna and the other three are about Beethoven's stages (or as Lockwood refers to them, maturities) as a composer. Each part starts with biographical information, but then moves on to the musical descriptions of his Beethoven's pieces, of which Lockwood discusses all known works. I found it surprising that his life could be divided so concisely, but in actuality, this form is tremendously helpful and gives the reader a greater understanding of the evolutionary development of Beethoven. Some have criticized the book for its traditional format and its lack of innovation, but I find the layout of the book fitting and unobtrusive.
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