Beethoven Book Summary - Beethoven Book explained in key points
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Beethoven summary

Laura Tunbridge

A Life in Nine Pieces

4.6 (82 ratings)
38 mins

Brief summary

Beethoven by Laura Tunbridge is a biography of one of the greatest composers of all time. It explores his life and work in detail, from his humble beginnings to his rise to fame.

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    Beethoven
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    Early Recognition

    The year 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven's birth. The exact day of his birth is uncertain, as is the case with many people born in the eighteenth century. But there is a record of his baptism; it took place on December 17, 1770.

    Beethoven was one of the few surviving children of Johann van Beethoven and his wife, Maria. The family, which included Beethoven’s grandfather (also named Ludwig), lived in Bonn, Germany, and worked for the court. It was a musical family.

    Beethoven’s grandfather and namesake was the director of court music. He was also a wine merchant, and Johann, a court singer, was known to be an alcoholic. Since Beethoven’s grandfather died just three years after his grandson’s birth, Beethoven was raised by his father, who was demanding and sometimes abusive. Johann wanted his son to be nothing less than a Mozart-like musical prodigy. The sad irony was that the relationship between father and son only grew more tense as Beethoven quickly surpassed the talents of his father.

    Beethoven’s family wasn’t one of nobility. This was often a topic of some confusion throughout Beethoven’s life. In Germany and Austria, having the word “von” in your name implies noble lineage, and many assumed that having a “van” in your name implied the same. But Beethoven’s grandfather was Belgian, and the Flemish “van” had nothing to do with noblesse.

    Nevertheless, due to the family’s proximity to the court in Bonn, young Ludwig gained notoriety among noblemen who would prove to be influential patrons and benefactors in his career. At the age of thirteen, Beethoven became a substitute organist for the court. Soon after, he joined the chamber music ensemble of Archduke Maximilian Franz – his first benefactor. 

    Beethoven quickly learned the importance of pleasing his patron. His first compositions purposefully highlighted the viola, Maximilian’s instrument. In 1786, Maximilian sponsored Beethoven’s first trip to Vienna, where he impressed Mozart with some improvisational playing – not an easy feat. Mozart didn’t make a habit of being wowed by piano-playing teenagers.

    A second trip to Vienna in 1792 found Beethoven under the tutelage of another legendary composer, Joseph Haydn. A year later, Haydn was so impressed that he wrote to Maximilian saying that it would only be a matter of time before Beethoven joined the ranks of Europe’s greatest musical talents.

    At this time, and many others, war would play a role in Beethoven’s career. The end of the eighteenth century was also the middle of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1794, Napoleon’s army took Vienna, and all plans to return to Bonn were put aside. Though no one could have predicted it at the time, as it turned out, Beethoven would remain in Vienna until his dying day.

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    What is Beethoven about?

    Beethoven (2020) takes a unique look at the legendary composer by digging into nine specific compositions that offer fresh insights on key moments in his life. The author challenges popular misconceptions of Beethoven as the reclusive, tortured, misanthropic genius – instead portraying an artist who values friendships, longs for love, and isn’t above haggling over publishing deals.

    Beethoven Review

    Beethoven (2020) by Laura Tunbridge is a captivating exploration of the life and music of one of history's most iconic composers. Here's why this book is a must-read:

    • Featuring meticulous research and insightful analysis, it provides a comprehensive understanding of Beethoven's genius and the cultural context in which he lived.
    • By delving into Beethoven's complex personality and the challenges he faced, the book brings him to life, making him relatable and deeply human.
    • With its interpretations of Beethoven's compositions and their significance, the book offers a deeper appreciation for his music, enhancing the listening experience.

    Best quote from Beethoven

    Revolutionary France and the Napoleonic Wars shaped and reshaped Europe throughout the composers lifetime . . .

    —Laura Tunbridge
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    Who should read Beethoven?

    • Music aficionados
    • Anyone who likes learning about the lives of artists
    • People interested in what makes a genius tick

    About the Author

    Laura Tunbridge is a scholar of German Romanticism and nineteenth-century music. She has written three monographs, including one on German composer Robert Schumann, and is currently a Professor of Music and a Henfrey Fellow at St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford.

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    Beethoven FAQs 

    What is the main message of Beethoven?

    The main message of Beethoven explores the life and music of the iconic composer Ludwig van Beethoven, delving into his struggles, triumphs, and lasting legacy.

    How long does it take to read Beethoven?

    The reading time for Beethoven varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in a matter of minutes.

    Is Beethoven a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Beethoven is a fascinating exploration of one of history's greatest composers. It offers valuable insights into Beethoven's life, music, and influence.

    Who is the author of Beethoven?

    The author of Beethoven is Laura Tunbridge.

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