Many years ago, Beethoven ceased being a man and became an icon—a legendary symbol of genius. This transformation began even when Beethoven was alive and is the product of the Westernized cultures with which Beethoven shared his music. Our reverence for this man goes beyond his works and extends well beyond his human qualities. Since his death, he has been called "the man who freed music," the man whose voice has been lent to the hopes of oppressed people all over the world. Simultaneously, tyrants and fascists have used his music to inspire truth in propaganda, and filmmakers have underscored many dystopian futures with his music. There has not been another composer whose music has been so universally appropriated.
Reducing Beethoven to a mere trope is not only unhelpful but harmful for both musicians and non-musicians of the future who deserve to know who Beethoven was as close to the truth at possible. What is it about Beethoven that makes him a target of our idolatry? A growing body of literature exists which debunks the “myth of the genius,” but the mainstream culture has not taken notice to it. A combination of popular culture, exaggerated anecdotes ensconced in historical texts, and outright lies has formed our collectively romanticized view of Beethoven as a god. Even J.S. Bach—someone who was much more prolific as a composer and whom Beethoven looked up to—does not have this god-complex surrounding him in our culture.
This annotated bibliography is a combination of biographies; articles in musicology, philosophy, and literature; and translated primary sources (correspondences and conversation books) which illuminate the human that was Ludwig van Beethoven. This bibliography focuses exclusively on material that addresses the myths surrounding Beethoven from the hundreds, if not thousands, of books, articles, and dissertations on Beethoven.
The bibliography is organized into three sections. The first section focuses on materials that directly discuss the myth itself, helping the reader identify the specifics of the myth and its origins. There is not much written on this topic, so the state of literature remains incomprehensive. For this reason, the second section is extensive. The second section gathers resources that will help the reader understand how the myth came about by extensively investigating the rhetoric and reception of Beethoven during and after his life. The third and final section gathers resources that will help the reader acquire a more faithful view of Beethoven, the man. If a resource includes blatant fiction (i.e. a story that would have been impossible based on conflicting accounts), the annotation will describe why the resource is listed at all.
Discerning truth from fiction is often difficult if not impossible altogether. Sometimes, objective truth can’t be reached due to missing information or too many false accounts. Many of these stories are told decades after-the-fact or on the storyteller’s deathbed, so these stories must be scrutinized and taken with much skepticism. My intent is to offer resources that will help the interested reader learn much about who Beethoven was and tell truth from fiction. I hope that such a bibliography will help everyone to be better informed of the person that was Ludwig van Beethoven and will keep his legacy as close to the truth as possible.
Keiler, Allan. "Liszt and Beethoven: The Creation of a Personal Myth." Liszt. Ed. Walter Frisch, D. Kern Holoman, and Joseph Kerman. Spec. issue of 19th-Century Music 12.2 (1988): 116-31. Print.
Keiler discusses Liszt's responsibility in one of most deeply ingrained myths regarding Beethoven—Weihekuss, the "kiss of consecration" which Beethoven apparently bestowed on the young Liszt in 1823. This story was popularized as early as the 1840s when the first Liszt narratives began to be published and fueled the German perception of Beethoven as both a person and a musician. Keiler asserts that the mythology of Beethoven is not so much a modern invention but that it began with this Weihekuss myth. Keiler provides concise but ample evidence why this "kiss of consecration" could not have taken place and how it was a model for many of the myths that followed. If this myth is indeed the proto-myth of Beethoven, it is important to understand the motives of Liszt in being the first to propagate such a made-up story for personal gain.
Knittel, K. M. "The Construction of Beethoven." The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music. Ed. Jim Samson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001. 118-56. Print.
Knittel translates a letter by Beethoven's friend Bettina Brentano von Arnim, an unreliable source, that show Beethoven's unyielding will and personality—a hallmark of the Beethoven myth. Knittel expands this by making a case for why such a myth was so desirable and outlines five important aspects of the myth which are taken directly from primary documents, such as Beethoven's obituary in Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. He then traces the history and the origins of the fabrications. Knittel's article is an excellent overview of the problems we face today regarding Beethoven with the layers of fiction that have accumulated over the last hundred and fifty years.
———. "Pilgrimages to Beethoven: Reminiscences by His Contemporaries." Music & Letters 83.1 (2003): 19-54. JSTOR. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
Knittel discusses the general form that different "first meeting with Beethoven" myths take in exhaustive detail. Knittel offers the shining example of such a story: the story of Liszt’s first meeting of Beethoven as a child prodigy. Knittel explains that through research, Liszt's story was proven to be impossible. Knittel asserts that these stories first begin with the desire to seek the master, gaining entrance after numerous setbacks, receiving positive response from the master only to run into communication barriers, and finally the possibility of more meetings and how life-altering the meeting was. Knittel catalogues at least 18 of such stories by Rossini, Liszt, and Spohr among others. Furthermore, the possible motives for fabricating these stories are discussed such as the fact that by placing themselves in this holy experience, they elevate themselves. His classification of the pilgrimage story structure and the cataloguing of different stories and which structural components they contain is a very helpful overview. This is an essential reading to understanding the forms and the origins of the Beethoven myths.
Newman, William S. "Yet Another Major Beethoven Forgery by Schindler?" Journal of Musicology 3.4 (1984): 397-422. JSTOR. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.
Newman first catalogs the current state of Schindler criticism and credits Stadlen for its inception. He then continues into uncharted territory which is to systematically scrutinize the one area of Beethoven scholarship in which Schindler had not been discredited: the transmission of musical style and tempo information from Beethoven himself through Schindler. Newman focuses on the annotations that Beethoven supposedly made in 21 etudes by Cramer, a renown contemporary of Beethoven. These annotations have given helpful insight into the interpretive mind of Beethoven for many years. However, Newman discredits these annotations (which were trusted as Beethoven's own until now) as having been Schindler's invention. Understanding the consequences of Newman's assertions are wide-reaching in that nothing Schindler touched can be fully trusted until vetted in detail.
Stadlen, Peter. "Schindler's Beethoven Forgeries." Musical Times 118.1613 (1977): 549-52. JSTOR. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.
This Stadlen article was the inception of a movement which began in the 1970s to discredit Anton Schindler by exposing the fabrications he had inserted into Beethoven's conversation books as well as directly into his biography of Beethoven. Although musicologists, including Thayer and Marx, have always been critical of Schindler's sources and claims, it had never been unequivocally renounced in whole until this article was published. Stadlen presents evidence after evidence that some of Schindler's claims must have been fabricated. Stadler goes on to discuss the possible motives Schindler had in doing what he did. While he does leave room for altruistic motives on Schindler's part, Stadler is doubtful. Schindler is responsible for much of the unintended Beethoven fiction that it must be made aware.
Applegate, Celia. "How German Is It? Nationalism and the Idea of Serious Music in the Early Eighteenth Century." 19th-Century Music 21.3 (1998): 274-96. JSTOR. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.
Applegate considers the ramifications of "serious music" in the nineteenth-century German nationalism movement. More specifically, Applegate discusses how both the musical and scientific disciplines in Germany adopted the idea of nationalism. Among the many consequences of this adoption was how the German musical culture evaluated "what music was excellent and what not." The musical establishment (critics like E. T. A. Hoffmann) crowned Beethoven its king—a central voice to their young German national identity. Without a doubt, the nationalism movement in nineteenth-century Germany was one of the most consequential movements in recent history, and by understanding why that movement used Beethoven as their main voice, we can better understand how that movement affected the reception of Beethoven in nineteenth-century Germany and beyond.
Applegate, Celia, and Pamela Potter. "Germans as the 'People of Music': Genealogy of an Identity." Music & German National Identity. Ed. Applegate and Potter. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2002. 1-35. Print.
Applegate and Potter in the first essay of Music & German National Identity discuss the history of the German identity as it relates to music. They devote a section of the essay to the role Beethoven played in shaping the culture. They note that Beethoven had greater interest in the politics (especially of the revolution and restoration) than any other composer before him. Speaking of 19th and 20th century politicians (from the courts of Frederick William II to the Third Reich), they write "it was Beethoven in particular who mattered to politicians of all stripes, especially in his heroic mode." There is no doubt that political forces' use of Beethoven is partly responsible for his status as a demigod in our current society, and this overview of the evolving German national identity and music's role in it is both a helpful and an important read.
Arnold, Elsie, and Denis Arnold. "The View of Posterity: An Anthology." The Beethoven Reader. Ed. Denis Arnold and Nigel Fortune. New York: Norton, 1971. 493-530. Print.
Arnold examines the posthumous reception of Beethoven in books and newspapers among others in trying to understand how Beethoven has remained "the supreme example of an artist whose greatness was not only acknowledged during his lifetime but also acknowledged to the full in the years since his death." In the end, they conclude that "we doubt whether Beethoven the musician can be divorced from Beethoven the political figure." It is imperative to understand that Beethoven means different ideas to different people and the synthesis of all those thoughts are complex. Only by discussing the different aspects of posthumous reception of Beethoven can the full scope of Beethoven's becoming an icon be understood.
Bentley, Eric. A Century of Hero-Worship: A Study of the Idea of Heroism in Carlyle and Neitzsche, With Notes on Wagner, Spengler, Stefan George, and D. H. Lawrence. Boston: Beacon P, 1957. Print.
Bentley details the German passion for heroism through the writings of Thomas Carlyle, Frederich Nietzsche, and Richard Wagner among several others. First, Bentley asserts that "heroism does not mean just any sort of human goodness." Rather, it is a philosophy of self-improvement and ennoblement. Bentley compares the heroism philosophy to "the centuries that lie ahead" as Catholicism was to the Middle Ages. He cautions that the writers he discusses had "one foot in the democratic and one in the fascist camp." Although Bentley does not directly discuss Beethoven's implications on hero-worship, this book lays a clear picture of how Beethoven became one of their greatest heroes.
Bonds, Mark Evan. "Idealism and the Aesthetics of Instrumental Music at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century." American Musicological Society 50.2 (1997): 387-420. JSTOR. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
Bonds discusses the inception of Romanticism and the turn towards "Absolute Music" at the turn of the 19th century. He describes how the aesthetic shift came first in literature and other writings and then music followed almost reflectively. Around that time, instrumental music changed from the lowest form of music to the highest. To Bonds, the greatest weapon in the new aesthetic was Beethoven, especially with his fifth symphony. He describes the German cultural attitude towards Beethoven at the time which was that by understanding Beethoven's music was to become free of all the misery that one carried with burden. For a man with that much influence over a culture, it is not surprising that Beethoven became an icon, and Bonds helpfully gives us the aesthetic context to understand his role in German society.
Bowie, Andrew. "German Idealism and the Arts." The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism. Ed. Karl Ameriks. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000: 239-57. Print.
Bowie traces the complex relationship between German Idealism and the arts. This essay is based largely on the philosophical works of Hegel, Kant, Scheller, Gadamer, and others with which Bowie paints how quickly aesthetics evolved at the turn of the 19th century. Specifically with music, Bowie asserts that "during this period music without words changed for many thinkers in Europe from being a subordinate form of art to being the highest form of art." He attributes this change to "the widespread questioning, in philosophy and elsewhere, of the idea of thought as exclusively a representation of what is already there in the world." Being from Bonn, one of the large centers of Enlightenment ideals, Beethoven was intimately interested in philosophy, and understanding the move away from the Age of Enlightenment into Romanticist thought is important to understanding both Beethoven's own influence in the aesthetic change as well as how he was influenced by it.
———. "Music and the Rise of Aesthetics." The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music. Ed. Jim Samson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001. 29-54. Print.
Beginning from Kant's Critique of Judgement of 1790, Bowie describes the evolution of aesthetics into the Nineteenth century and the birth of Romanticism all the way until Nietzsche and Schlegel's observations of Romanticism and its implications. To understand how Beethoven became so wildly popular in his own day, it is important to understand the cultural and aesthetic climate in which his music was received. Bowie's overview is not only helpful but concise.
Brinkmann, Reinhold. "In the Times of the Eroica." Trans. Irene Zedlacher. Beethoven and His World. Ed. Scott Burnham and Michael P. Steinberg. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2000. 1-26. Print.
Brinkmann's essay focuses on the historical, aesthetic, and political climate around the beginning of the 19th century when Beethoven first revealed his Third Symphony to German audiences. If his First and Second Symphonies were extending the work of Mozart and Haydn, the Eroica Symphony is a near-clean break from custom eschewing traditional formal practices, duration, and musical gesture. This shift from tradition was initially not well-received by many critics. The critics of the Third Symphony likened the suddenness of events as following "the same principles as the rhetoric of the Revolution." At least in one example, it took three years for an anonymous author to praise the symphony in the main newspaper of their time, Leipzig's Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. Because it is during this climate that Beethoven's fame—and myth—spread, it is important to understand how the reception of Beethoven was shifting at the time—and eventually how his revolutionary symphony made him out to be the hero of the struggling.
Broyles, Michael. Beethoven in America. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2011. Print.
Broyles traces the evolution of Beethoven's reception in the United States. He describes the reception like a tree. Initially, it began with the trunk and Beethoven meant a very specific thing to Americans. As time went on, the trunk diverged into different branches and different groups of people began to incorporate Beethoven and his music into their lives in diverse ways. Broyles highlights the special influence the Transcendentalists had on Americans with their veneration of the composer. Broyles concludes that Beethoven was "all but deified and considered a moral being beyond mere mortals" by the early 20th century. Broyle's scholarship is thorough and recent, and this book's comprehensive perspective on the American reception shows that Beethoven was deified even outside of the context of the evolving German culture which seemed destined to deify Beethoven.
Burnham, Scott. "Criticism, Faith, and the 'Idee': A. B. Marx's Early Reception of Beethoven." 19th-Century Music 13.3 (1990): 183-192. JSTOR. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
The most important musical publication in Germany (or as it could be argued, of the world) at the time, Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung of Leipzig, gained an eponymous rival in Berlin in 1824. Adolph Bernhard Marx was hired as the first editor-in-chief of Berlin's Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, and Burnham asserts that "Marx's conception of artistic understanding, the core of his critical program, is based largely on his personal identification with the dramatic coherence of the music of Beethoven." By having a friend at the helm of the main music newspaper of Berlin, it is not difficult to understand how Beethoven gained a cult following in Berlin—something that will help us trace Beethoven's rise to demigod-status.
———. Aesthetics, Theory and History in the Works of Adolph Bernhard Marx. Diss. Brandeis U, 1988. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1988. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
Burnham delves into the musical analyses that Marx made of Beethoven's works, especially the Third Symphony. According to Burnham, Marx thought that Beethoven "[became] the future of music" with the Eroica Symphony because it was the first large-scale work that had the ability to express "ideal content." While other entries in this bibliography (Pederson, Burnham's article, etc) focus on Marx's impact on the German culture, especially of Berlin, this dissertation focuses on why Beethoven was so important to Marx in the first place. If we are to appreciate Marx's contribution to the sainthood of Beethoven, understanding what he saw in Beethoven is essential. Burnham's dissertation makes it clear why Marx thought so highly of Beethoven.
———. Beethoven Hero. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1995. Print.
Although this book is mostly a theoretical and aesthetic approach to analyzing Beethoven's Third Symphony, there are significant discussions on the cultural climate which received the symphony in chapter 4 titled "Cultural Values: Beethoven, The Goethezeit, and the Heroic Concept of Self." Burnham discusses his observation that the aesthetic of the "Hero"—which Beethoven asserted with the Third Symphony—became a reflection of his own being in the eyes of that culture which we've continued to this day. This is an insightful chapter which—while dense and difficult to comprehend at first—lends a framework on how Beethoven's own compositions and its theoretical contents altered his reception to the public, a highly useful study for demythologizing Beethoven.
———. "The Four Ages of Beethoven: Critical Reception and the Canonic Composer." The Cambridge Companion to Beethoven. Ed. Glenn Stanley. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 272-291. Print.
Burnham closely examines four specific times to find any ebbs and flows in the reception of Beethoven: 1827, 1870, 1927, and 1970 which are all the dates related to Beethoven's birth or death. These dates represent the times when musical institutions celebrated Beethoven more than usual, and therefore, when the language about him becomes the grandest. By tracing how the language has changed over the years at their most dramatic points, Burnham observes four different Beethovens that all have superhuman characteristics in some fashion. For example, the literature in 1927 saw Beethoven "as lawgiver and the bearer of Classical values." By analyzing four salient markers in the reception of Beethoven, Burnham makes valuable observations about the evolution of Beethoven's reception.
Chan, Anne Hui-Hua. Beethoven in the United States to 1865. Diss. UNC at Chapel Hill, 1976. Ann Arbor: Xerox University Microfilms, 1976. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.
Chan's dissertation explores the rise of Beethoven's reputation in the United States to 1865. As Chan points out, the reception of Beethoven is extremely inconsistent and quixotic: in 1819, the first Beethoven society of anywhere in the world began in Portland, Maine while in 1823, Beethoven was rarely performed in Boston. From there, she traces the rise of Beethoven's reputation in the United States by identifying the earliest published articles in America of Beethoven. She also credits the work of John Sullivan Dwight and Alexander Wheelock Thayer as the primary drivers of familiarizing Beethoven to Americans. It is interesting to look at Beethoven through the lens of a curious 19th-century American. Understanding how he became renown in America gives us clues to how his mythic identity formed in Europe.
Comini, Alessandra. The Changing Image of Beethoven: A Study in Mythmaking. New York: Rizzoli, 1987. Print.
Comini in this extensive book draws a connection between the time Beethoven was alive to the Viennese Secessionists. She asserts that the mythmaking process of Beethoven began while he was still alive and that Beethoven himself contributed to the lore with his behavior and his compositions. The research and the writing is extensive and begins by making a strong case for the cultural practice of mythmaking. Then from chapter two (eyewitness accounts of Beethoven) to chapter six (Vienna Secession's Beethoven), Comini paints a comprehensive picture of the ever-changing Beethoven by gathering every imaginable source from concert reviews to letters by Berlioz. It is a long book but one that is essential in understanding how the Beethoven myth came to be and evolved over time.
Cooper, Barry, ed. Beethoven Compendium. London: Thames, 1996. Print.
This volume, edited by Barry Cooper, assembles every aspect of Beethoven's life including his beliefs and opinions, his appearance and manners, daily routines and habits, family tree, among many others. It is not as much of a chronological biography as it is a dossier. The book is organized by sections and provides detailed information on various matters such as conversion rates of all the different and obscure currency units in which Beethoven was paid. This volume is one of the most comprehensive books on Beethoven, the person, and thus one of the most useful for attaining how Beethoven would have been were he to be living with us today.
Dahlhaus, Carl. Nineteenth-Century Music. Trans. J. Bradford Robinson. Los Angeles: U of California P, 1989. Print.
In this book, Dahlhaus covers many topics, one of which refutes the idea that Beethoven "appears as a Promethean revolutionary, as a sorcerer, or as a martyred saint." Dahlhaus makes a clear distinction between real biographies and pseudo-biographies and how they each have a role to play in informing society of the real Beethoven. In addition, Dahlhaus identifies certain authors who cannot be trusted to give accurate accounts. Although it is not comprehensive (he states in the introduction that: "a history of the Beethoven myth would be tantamount to an intellectual history of the nineteenth century; yet, a few first steps aside, this history has yet to be written"), it gives a fantastic overview of some of the problematic fabrications on Beethoven coming out of the 19th century.
Dennis, David Bruce. "Beethoven at Large: Reception in Literature, the Arts, Philosophy, and Politics." The Cambridge Companion to Beethoven. Ed. Glenn Stanley. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 292-305. Print.
Among the countless articles on the reception of Beethoven, this one by Dennis uniquely includes reflections of the Beethoven-inspired poems left at the Beethoven-Haus Archives by visitors. In addition, Dennis discusses how visual arts, philosophy, politics, and even religion have reflected its reception of Beethoven. Dennis explains that the reason why listeners all over the world have universally appropriated him for their cultural and ideological horizons is that he was such a complex and an inconsistent character: just about everyone could draw a personal connection with one of the many faceted face of Beethoven's personhood. Dennis does not intend on correcting any inaccuracies but rather review the diverse responses triggered by his music. This unique aspect of studying Beethoven's reception gives us a unique angle to understanding the evolving nature of the reception of Beethoven.
———. Beethoven in German Politics: 1870-1989. New Haven: Yale UP, 1996. Print.
Dennis makes the case that Beethoven to Germans of the last century is highest symbol of unity, pride, and achievement. He makes it clear that Beethoven wasn't always received this way in politics: in the decades after his death, Beethoven's music was accused of upholding French values and a threat to the German government by spreading ideas of a revolution along with liberty, equality, and fraternity. Dennis goes on to show how the political reception of Beethoven's music evolved to become a symbol of German unity and nationality—something that would have been impossible to consider in 1849. Because cultural reception and political reception are two different things, it's essential to note the differences between the two—which for Beethoven were wildly different.
DeNora, Tia. Beethoven and the Construction of Genius: Musical Politics in Vienna, 1792-1803. Berkeley: U of California P, 1995. Print.
DeNora examines the establishment of Beethoven's reputation and how it evolved in order to understand why his renown took the form it did. She asserts that "a deep appreciation of Beethoven need not be coupled with the idea that his works are 'transcendent.'" She takes this approach because the ramifications of such a view are too great and unhealthy in considering the finite social and cultural resources needed to develop new and different kinds of talent and genius. Understanding how Beethoven's reputation settled the way it did is an important step for our own society today, and it also helps us understand how the Beethoven myth came to be in the forms that it took.
Huddleston, Andrew. Nietzsche on Decadence and Flourishing of Culture. Diss. Princeton, 2012. Ann Arbor: UMI, 2012. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.
Huddleston discusses Nietzsche's view of culture—and as its main case study, what made Beethoven so great according to Nietzsche. Nietzsche frames the world as having two diametric opposites—on one end, morality, and on the other, the attitudes which allow for human excellence. (Of course, Nietzsche makes a much more nuanced argument than can be described in one sentence). The dissertation brings to light the kind of faith Beethoven had being at odds with the morality of Beethoven's unbounded creativity. Huddleston, through Nietzsche, examines what allowed Beethoven to succeed according to the Nietzschean framework. This dissertation gives us the necessary vocabulary to understand the cultural forces acting on Beethoven during his life, and by extension, how Beethoven's world viewed him.
Knittel, K. M. From Chaos to History: The Reception of Beethoven's Late Quartets. Diss. Princeton, 1992. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1992. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
In her dissertation, Knittel shows that "Beethoven's biographical circumstances played a much larger role in the critical reception of [his late quartets] than did their musical content." If this is indeed true, it says a lot about the musical climate in Beethoven's last years that propelled him to become an idol. Knittel focuses heavily on Wagner's efforts in changing the reception of late works by Beethoven and how those efforts still continue to impact musical reception of today. Beethoven's late works were not popular at first and threatened to diminish Beethoven's stature as a composer. Clearly, the Beethoven myth persisted despite this initial rejection, and in order to understand how, Knittel's dissertation is a helpful reading.
———. "Wagner, Deafness, and the Reception of Beethoven's Late Style." Journal of the American Musicological Society 51.1 (1998): 49-82. JSTOR. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
Knittel describes Wagner's role in romanticizing Beethoven's deafness—a key component of the myth. Knittel describes how Wagner "made a radical and unprecedented departure from the perspective of these early critics" in 1870 by proposing for the first time that "[Beethoven's] loss of hearing was beneficial, even vital, to the creative process." Wagner's 1870 essay titled Beethoven was immediately acclaimed and remains a compelling reading to scholars. Knittel states that Wagner's idealization of deafness stemmed from in part an envy of Beethoven by Wagner who wanted the isolation and solitute Beethoven had. Because Beethoven's deafness has become an integral part of his identity today in the Beethoven myth, it is important to understand how it became idealized after decades of critics' opinions that it had hindered Beethoven. Knittel's essay on Wagner's role does a fantastic job of detailing this change.
Kramer, Elizabeth. The Idea of Kunstreligion in German Musical Aesthetics of the Early Nineteenth Century. Diss. UNC at Chapel Hill, 2005. Ann Arbor: UMI, 2005. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Kramer chronicles the rise of Kunstreligion—"art religion"—as an asthetic concept around the turn of the 19th century. She notes that in music, "Kunstreligion manifested itself as a matrix of convictions of listening, the concert, the composer, and musical works." The nature and role of the audience, the concert, and the composer was so radically different that we would hardly recognize it now. Since then, composers and the concert itself became much more important. The compositions themselves became even more important. Kramer argues that it is in this cultural climate of the "union of the sacralized composer and sacralized work" in the 1810s-1820s that Beethoven became a superstar.
Longyear, Rey M. Nineteenth-Century Romanticism in Music. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1969. Print.
Longyear traces the development of Romanticism in music from as early as Monteverdi and Vivaldi to La Traviata and Tristan. He firmly plants Beethoven as the impetus for the Romantic era in music in which "not a single major composer of this period could wholly escape his influence." Longyear first examines Beethoven's own predecessors, compositional life, and contemporaries and then discusses Beethoven's monolithic legacy on the blossoming of the German Romanticism in music. Because of Romantic era's outsized influence in music of the rest of the 20th and 21st-century, understanding Beethoven's role in it is essential if we are to understand how Beethoven became an icon.
Russel, Martin. Beethoven's Hair: An Extraordinary Historical Odyssey and a Scientific Mystery Solved. New York: Broadway Books, 2001. Print.
Martin narrates the story of a lock of Beethoven's hair from the moment it was collected from the recently-deceased Beethoven to the moment at a Sotheby's auction when it was bought by a medical pair in order to study it. Although the topic feels trivial, it can be helpful in gleaning the cultural conception of Beethoven. Martin traces the provenance of the vial of hair, and along the way gives us many clues as to how Beethoven became a demigod.
Mathew, Nicholas. "On Being There in 1824." The Invention of Beethoven and Rossini: Historiography, Analysis, Criticism. Ed. Mathew and Benjamin Walton. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013. 178-94. Print.
Mathew recounts the events leading up to the premiere of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to show how "by the time of the concert, Beethoven's supporters in the music press were primed to publish rave reviews." What happened was that Beethoven—who had initially planned for the premiere of the Ninth to be in Berlin or London—changed the location to Vienna after prominent Viennese and his patrons published their signed petitions in the city's newspapers. Mathew asserts that the music press was self-conscious and biased to manufacture Beethoven's success because of his decision to honor their demands. They deemed it a "historic" event even before it was over. It is imperative to understand the public's predetermined bias in making Beethoven their success because it explains how Beethoven became more than just a composer who would normally be at the mercy of the audience and the critics.
Morrow, Mary Sue. Concert Life in Haydn's Vienna: Aspects of a Developing Musical and Social Institution. Stuyvesant: Pendragon, 1989. Print.
Morrow asserts that the "concert life in Vienna during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries has not always enjoyed the best of reputations. Especially in comparison with the German capitals and London, where professional and amateur subscription series dominated the musical scene and provided a steady supply of performances." This is to mean that while Vienna was rich in music, publicly concertizing as an orchestra was not as established as it were elsewhere. Rather, private concerts—like the ones of the aristocracy and the nobility—of both symphonic and chamber music was much more widespread. In examining comprehensive sources, including histories of public concert locations, orchestra sizes, and mentions in the publications along with many other sources, Morrow makes a distinction of the year 1810 when the Viennese concert life began a new era. The fact that this date is placed approximately between the premieres of Beethoven's Fifth and Seventh Symphonies is not a mere coincidence along with his rising stature as a master composer. In understanding the transformation of Vienna's public music life is essential to understanding how Beethoven became cemented in their music scene, and for that matter, ours.
Pederson, Sanna. "A. B. Marx, Berlin Concert Life, and German National Identity" 19th-Century Music 18.2 (1994): 87-107. JSTOR. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
Pederson discusses Berlin's unique position during Beethoven's lifetime of holding fast against the Rossini fever while the rest of Europe went mad for his operas. She describes the work of Marx and his role in keeping Berlin "a city for Beethoven." In describing Berliner's recognition of non-German opera as "the antithesis of the symphony," Pedersen describes the pride of the Berliners as they held up Beethoven's symphonies. Marx viewed this not only an aesthetic choice but as a moral battleground in which Germans must hold superiority. Learning why Berliners upheld Beethoven as sacrosanct is a key step in understanding our own invention of the Beethoven myth.
———. Beethoven and Freedom: Historicizing the Political Connection. Beethoven Forum 12.1 (2005): 1-12. Print.
Pederson investigates the degree to which Beethoven has been historically associated with the political concept of freedom. She refutes the idea that Beethoven has always represented the values of freedom since his emergence as a composer—a notion that is so firmly ingrained in our culture today that Beethoven's music is almost exclusively used to commemorate tragedies and celebrations of human triumph (the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11 among others). In tracing the history of how Beethoven's music became to represent freedom, she discusses how popularized anecdotes such as Beethoven ripping out the title page of the Eroica Symphony upon finding out that Napoleon betrayed the ideas of the Revolution and liberty were only made known after Beethoven's death—and therefore, likely false. It's important to understand that our view of Beethoven today is different, if not vastly, from the contemporaneous understanding of Beethoven during his own time. Pederson's article explains how nationalist politics and revolutionary ideals became entangled with Beethoven's character and music—an essential aspect of discovering how Beethoven became an icon.
Raynor, Henry. Music and Society Since 1815. London: Barrie, 1976. Print.
Raynor discusses the impact of the various political revolutions and upheavals in European societies on its music. Specifically, Raynor explains that the change from "light music" to "compelling [serious composers] to concentrate on huge sensations and often painful extremes of emotion" was caused by changes in social condition around 1815. Raynor also factors in the decline of religion in Europe in the 19th century. Further valuable are Raynor's discussions on the evolving role of the composer and their disposition to the current social and political conditions of his or her audiences. Although Raynor does not focus specifically on Beethoven, his thoughts and observations clarify why Beethoven was received so well.
Rumph, Stephen. "A Kingdom Not of This World: The Political Context of E. T. A. Hoffmann's Beethoven Criticism." 19th-Century Music 19.1 (1995): 50-67. JSTOR. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.
Rumph expands on E. T. A. Hoffmann's doctrine of absolute music and how it contributed to its surrounding politics. According to Rumph, Hoffmann did that best through his review of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony which appeared in 1810 in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung. Rumph writes: "[Hoffmann] hails Beethoven as the high priest of a new, purified instrumental music, a music that 'opens to mankind an unknown kingdom, a world which has nothing in common with the outer sensory world.'" Rumph continues on to describe how Hoffmann painted Beethoven as a kind of a Promethean who labored over the fire in a self-possessed manner. With this kind of portrayal of Beethoven from a highly regarded critic, it is not too difficult to see how a mythical narrative around Beethoven could have begun.
Samson, Jim. "The Great Composer." The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music. Ed. Samson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001. 259-84. Print.
Samson asserts that 19th century is when the Western cultures began fetishizing greatness. Furthermore, he states that "it was German Idealism that most obviously nurtured the concept of genius in the early nineteenth century." He focuses on its creation of Beethoven as "the epitome of the engaged or committed artist, one who expressed through music his affinity with the radical, humanitarian thought of the age of Revolution . . . its quest for an epic status." Samson focuses on the historical and political aspects of the nurturing of the concept of genius rather than an aesthetic approach. Through his study of the evolving political and historical climates, we can better understand how Beethoven became the face of the cult of genius.
Shamsai, Peri Elizabeth. The Case of Beethoven: Aesthetic Ideology and Cultural Politics in Fin-de-Siècle Viennese Modernism. Diss. Columbia, 1997. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1997. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.
Shamsai provides an account of the Vienna Secession artists at the turn of the 20th century who—more than any other before—became devoted to Beethoven. According to Shamsai, this was not a mere embracing of his music but a total embrace of his identity and what he represented. According to Shamsai, what he represented was a complete invention of whomever sought use it for their own agenda. She goes further and states that "the modernists christened Beethoven as their central deity, encoding their ideals and aspirations within their numerous treatments of the composer." Shamsai traces the deification of Beethoven backwards in time through Nietzsche and Richard Wagner and provides an insight into how decades of mythmaking can shape not only an entire movement of aesthetics but push Beethoven from being a celebrity to a political and cultural tool.
Sipe, Thomas Owen. Interpreting Beethoven: History, Aesthetics, and Critical Reception. Diss. U Penn, 1992. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1992. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Web. 12 Nov. 2016.
Sipe traces the history of interpreting Beethoven with a specific focus on his Eroica Symphony. In addition, he examines the political and aesthetic climate from which the work emerged. Sipe includes evidence from a letter in which a music critic for the first time attached a literary and metaphoric connotation to a symphony by calling Eroica a "symphony-poem." Understanding the evolving reception of Beethoven as more than a classical symphony composer as well as the ripe political and aesthetic climate helps us understand not only the reception of the Erioca symphony but the wider cultural current on which Beethoven the man became Beethoven the icon.
Sonneck, Oscar George, ed. and trans. Beethoven: Impressions by His Contemporaries. New York: Oxford UP, 1927. Print.
Sonneck has compiled and annotated reminiscences by contemporaries of Beethoven. In the preface, the publisher clearly states that because they were not trying to make a biographical statement, no serious attempt was made to reconcile errors of memory or timing with conflicting facts. Sonneck has selected the recollection of Beethoven by 39 individuals out of more than 150 that exist. Sonneck's criteria for selecting these individuals are not outlined other than to state that the material had to be available in the United States and contribute a “significant value.” He includes many of Beethoven's students, friends, patrons, and acquaintances. This book is a great resource in getting the unfiltered view of what people back in the day thought of Beethoven. While one must be careful in trusting every reminiscence included (especially of Schindler and Brettina von Arnim), the annotations by Sonneck provide highly useful context of each reminiscence and in turn showing us how Beethoven was regarded as a man during his day.
Spitzer, Michael. Metaphor and Musical Thought. Chicago: U Chicago P, 2004. Print.
Spitzer discusses the origins of the metaphor and how it has factored into the collective consciousness. In this discussion, Spitzer focuses on musical metaphors, especially within the structure of tonality that the Western culture has developed in the last few centuries. Furthermore, he discusses implications of rhythmic structure and the grammar of melody. He draws a prosodic connection between these metaphors and the works of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. While Spitzer does not spend extended amount of time discussing Beethoven, he does draw a parallel between Beethoven's compositional processes and the importance of melody, a form of musical metaphor. In understanding Beethoven, the composer, through the lens of metaphors in harmony, rhythm, and melody, we can better understand the Beethovenian approach to music that spoke and still speaks to so many people today.
Vazsonyi, Nicholas. "Beethoven Instrumentalized: Richard Wagner's Self-Marketing and Media Image." Music and Letters 89.2 (2008): 195-211. JSTOR. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
Vazsonyi discusses Wagner's role in elevating society's perception of Beethoven from a great composer to an icon of genius. In this discussion, Vazsonyi includes Wagner's novella "A Pilgrimage to Beethoven" (which first appeared in the Revue et gazette musicale almost as a one-uppance of Liszt's Weihekuss-myth), Wagner’s lifelong obsession of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and Wagner’s highly successful but controversial concert in Dresden in 1844 involving the Ninth Symphony. Vazsonyi's overview of Wagner's role in promoting Beethoven into in icon of genius is a highly useful launching point into more detailed literature.
Vellutini, Claudio. Cultural Engineering: Italian Opera in Vienna, 1816-1848. Diss. U of Chicago, 2015. Ann Arbor: UMI, 2015. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
While Vellutini's dissertation is focused on Rossini's success in Vienna, he also discusses the differences between Beethoven and Rossini's Viennese reception in significant length. He states that "while Beethoven had maintained his towering position in music history, Rossini was eventually downgraded to 'an inferior rung in the musical hierarchy' because of the different status their music came to acquire in the eyes of later generations." Vellutini attributes the main difference to the aesthetics their works embodied: Rossini's success was "ephemeral because of the volatility of the 'crucial aesthetic arbiter' that provides [his operas] with meaning." Vellutini's evaluation of Rossini's short-lived success allows us to simultaneously understand why Beethoven's success was not only timeless but even improved over time in Vienna and elsewhere.
Wagner, Richard. Beethoven. Trans. Roger Allen. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2014. Print.
Wagner's Beethoven is not so much a biography as it is an essay on aesthetics and the hegemony of German culture. Wagner makes a detailed discussion of expression in music and drama, the relationship between an artist and the state, and universality of music among other topics. These discussions occur all through his observations of music by Beethoven. As it might be expected of Wagner's writing, there is an undeniable strain of nationalism, especially near the end of the book when he attacks French culture and the importance of German music in his utopian ideals. Allen writes of Wagner: "the figure of Beethoven as seen from such a lofty Wagnerian summit is not only inextricably linked with the victories of 1870 but is cast as a cultural pillar of Bismarck's emerging German Reich." Wagner gives us a glimpse of Beethoven's role in the German culture in the rapidly shifting political landscape of the late 19th century. With it, we can better understand the image of the infallible Beethoven.
Wallace, Robin. Beethoven's Critics: Aesthetic Dilemmas and Resolutions During the Composer's Lifetime. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1986. Print.
Wallace's book traces the history of reception of Beethoven by his contemporaries. One of his main arguments is to refute the work of Slonimsky and others who have tried begin the myth that Beethoven's music was not well received during his time (which works to the "overcoming" narrative myth). At the same time, Wallace is quick to point out that E. T. A. Hoffmann (discussions of whose writings have been well covered in this bibliography) was alone in his grandiose assessment that Beethoven's music ushered in the Romantic era. Combining these two views, Wallace's point becomes clear: every-day music critics, even those who didn't consider Beethoven to be ushering in an entirely new aesthetic, considered "almost at once, and universally, recognized [Beethoven] as a composer of genius, and this recognition is reflected in practically everything that was written about him during his lifetime." There are many books that compile contemporary reviews of Beethoven's music, but none go into as much detail in discussing their context and implications as this book by Wallace.
———. Contemporaneous Criticisms of Beethoven: A Case Study in Musical Aesthetics. Diss. Yale, 1984. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1984. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
In this dissertation, Wallace has thoroughly surveyed Beethoven's reception in the contemporaneous musical press as well as the aesthetic attitudes which that criticism represents—something he claims has not been done to date. Wallace states that the survey surprisingly reveals Beethoven's contemporaries "placing him squarely in the middle of the Romantic movement which he is now thought to have foreshadowed." He also points out that the aesthetic revealed by the contemporaneous criticisms are contradictory to the traditional view of German idealist musical aesthetics. These discoveries by Wallace threaten to delegitimize much of our understanding of Beethoven. However, Wallace resolves these contradictions in his dissertation, and its arguments are essential to understanding the true Beethoven that 19th-century society experienced and made into an icon.
Watkins, Holly. The Concept of Depth in German Musical Thought, 1800-1950. Diss. U of California, 2004. Ann Arbor: UMI, 2004. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
Watkins discusses the trajectory of the concept of depth in German aesthetics from 18th-century geology to Schoenberg's twelve-tone compositions. Watkins proposes that the common notion that Beethoven's music speaks to the inner-most of our souls began with E. T. A. Hoffmann's writings on Beethoven. Watkins places Hoffmann's reception (and the public's agreeance) firmly in her trajectory of the concept of depth in German culture. She expands this by noting A. B. Marx's ideas of musical depth "a concept he too reserved especially for the works of Beethoven." By showing how the German culture was attuned to the concept of depth, Watkins details how the German public was attuned to the music of Beethoven, especially given the positive reception by Hoffmann and Marx. Understanding this aspect of depth in German culture is a non-trivial aspect of understanding how Beethoven became cemented in our culture today as an icon.
Weber, Eugen, ed. Paths to the Present: Aspects of European Thought from Romanticism to Existentialism. New York: Dodd, 1964. Print.
Weber assembles important documents and events of the 19th and 20th century and writes about them (as well as including the translated primary documents) to describe a path Europe took from the Romanticism movement to the philosophy of Existentialism. Especially in Gordon Wright's essay on Romanticism, he describes the different facets of Romanticism from literature to music. By understanding the attitudes and cultural aspirations of Romanticism, we can better understand the context in which Beethoven was made a hero and how his narrative was ripe for promulgation to not only Germans but for all Europeans.
Adorno, Theodor. Beethoven, The Philosophy of Music: Fragments and Texts. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Ed. Rolf Tiedermann. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1998. Print.
This book contains the translated and edited text fragments written by Adorno concerning Beethoven. The relevant chapters for the purposes of this bibliography are "Society," "Critique," and "Humanity and Demythologization." For decades, Adorno collected notes intending to write a book on Beethoven but never formally began the process. Tiedemann and Jephcott have edited and translated, respectively, every word that he wrote in his notes. The editor cautions his readers because "none of the notes on Beethoven was written for a reader; they were all intended for the author himself, as aides-mémoire for the time when he would apply himself to the final composition, a task he never began." Regardless, many of the fragments that Adorno wrote for himself are useful to us in this endeavor to demythologize Beethoven and are worth a look.
Albrecht, Theodore. "Anton Schindler as Destroyer and Forger of Beethoven's Conversation Books: A Case for Decriminalization." Music's Intellectual History: Founders, Followers, and Fads. Proc. of Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale, New York, 16-19 Mar. 2005. Eds. Zdravko Bla_ekovi_ and Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie. New York: RILM, 2009. 169-81. Print.
This article by Albrecht is a comprehensive resource on the history and provenance of Beethoven’s conversation books. It discusses in fine detail how Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s unofficial secretary and biographer, fabricated stories and added them into the blank pages or empty spaces in Beethoven’s conversation books. This has created many myths about Beethoven, which scholars of the recent era are working to unravel. However, unlike the article by Stadlen, Albrecht makes the case that Schindler was not as bad as the last 50 years of musicology made him out to be. Because Schindler’s biography of Beethoven is one of the oldest and most renown, being aware of Schindler’s “notorious propensity for falsification” is critical to successfully separating truth from fiction in regards to understanding who was Mr. Beethoven.
———, ed. and trans. Letters to Beethoven and Other Correspondence. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1996. Print.
Albrecht has translated and edited all of Beethoven's surviving letters into three volumes. This collection pays special attention to the letters written to Beethoven, although it also contains many letters that Beethoven wrote. The translations are very literal without overt editing by Albrecht (in direct contrast to Emily Anderson’s collection which I have left out of the bibliography), and there are many letters here that were not included in any previous translations of letters of Beethoven. Albrecht includes scholarly annotations on each letter giving greater context and clarifying information as well as a general note on the currency values found in these letters. There aren't many translated collections of Beethoven's letters, and Albrecht's work in this collection is one of the best.
Barford, Philip. "Beethoven as Man and Artist." The Beethoven Reader. Ed. Denis Arnold and Nigel Fortune. New York: Norton, 1971. 21-40. Print.
Barford takes a critical look at Beethoven without holding anything back. He states "it's impossible to imagine Beethoven married, and surrounded by children" by citing Beethoven's "fundamental restlessness," "failing to find a harmonious pattern of day-to-day existence," and "suspicion and double-dealing [with his publishers]." Barford is careful to note that "in analyzing the character of a creative genius, we must distinguish between his physical being, his 'earth-oriented' consciousness, and the ideal level at which he expresses his characteristic function." Barford's words are fair, and the reader would be wise to heed them. He later explains his reconciliation with such a negative characterization of Beethoven by stating that Beethoven is "the symbol of man's eternal rejection of negative attitudes to life" and blames Beethoven's "offensive behaviour" as "reflections of forces transmuted at a higher level of his being . . . into his music." This radically honest essay is a highly refreshing read, and it is one that respects the complexity of Beethoven, the man.
Davies, Peter J. The Character of a Genius. Westport: Greenwood P, 2002. Print.
Davies describes in chronological detail the development of Beethoven's character beginning with when he was a child and his parents' treatment of him and his siblings. He places extra emphasis on the role religion had in Beethoven's life (noticeably more so than any other author surveyed in this bibliography). In addition, Beethoven's frequent depression, paranoia, and stress-induced illnesses—especially later in his life—are of significant interest to Davies who examines how it all factored into his character and ultimately in his creativity. The entire book is devoted to the personality and character of Beethoven which helps us in turn understand why he made the choices he made and how he became an untouchable icon.
Dennis, David Bruce. The Indoctrination of a Muse: Myths of Ludwig van Beethoven and His Music as Evoked in German Political Culture from 1789 to 1989. Diss. U of California, 1991. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1991. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
Dennis offers a comprehensive look into the way in which the German culture—and in many ways, its identity as a nation—is closely associated with the music of Beethoven, perhaps more than any other composer. He traces the different eras of Germany from before it was a unified nation to after the fall of the Berlin wall. He identifies the political environment of Germany in those periods and aims to identify how Beethoven’s music was co-opted for different purposes including both extremes of the political spectrum from the far-left to the far-right. Dennis asserts that because Beethoven has been an ideological symbol for political and cultural agendas of all kinds in Germany for a long time, many narratives have been spun for different purposes. He identifies these myths and political reshaping of Beethoven from a comprehensive analysis of many media sources from scholarly writings to radio transmissions. This thorough study of the cultural appropriation of the Beethoven narrative will help peel away the layers of fiction surrounding Beethoven.
Jones, David Wyn. The Life of Beethoven. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.
Jones has written a unique biography on Beethoven by not beginning from his birth. With little fanfare, Jones begins the biography in 1801, the year of his First Symphony. While it only contains the important events in Beethoven's life as it relates to his musical career, it goes into deep detail including supporting evidence such as correspondences and other primary documents. (The book does not include any secondary sources or anecdotes.) Jones never spends too much time on one event or hypothesizes on possible motives—only factually reporting the events as it must have happened. It is a refreshingly fun read.
Kerst, Friedrich, comp. and ed. Beethoven, the Man and the Artist, as Revealed in His Own Words. Trans. Henry Edward Krehbiel. 1905. New York: Dover, 1964. Print.
This book collects and translates various quotes by Beethoven from various sources and groups them into different topics. These quotes extend beyond letters and include quips and thoughts written for his students, in a patron’s book, or his own conversation books, diary entries, and compositional sketchbooks. Together, these snippets give rise to a general sense of what Beethoven thought about in various topics such as “On His Own Disposition and Character” or “On Art and Artists.” Especially revealing are the sections about God, himself, his works, or how he views the act of composition. There is a short introduction for each category of quotes, and every quote lists its source. While it is not a comprehensive catalog of everything Beethoven ever wrote or said, it is a useful resource in gauging Beethoven’s opinions and his own processes in dealing with certain situations.
Kinderman, William. Beethoven. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.
Kinderman's primary focus in his eponymous biography of Beethoven is to examine the creative development of Beethoven from his impressionable young days in Bonn to his last years in Vienna writing his last string quartets. This is not a book focused on his compositions, rather, Kinderman uses the compositions to get to the inner workings of Beethoven, the man. It is also a very recent biography, so it considers the latest scholarship including new discoveries of piano sonata manuscripts, letters, and other documents. Kinderman organizes the biography in chronological order by ever-changing compositional styles. (Kinderman goes beyond the typically labeled early, middle, and late periods.) His thorough examination of Beethoven's growth through his final years is an informative reading on how his creativity evolved with the man. Understanding Beethoven's ever-increasing creativity gives us clues to how his contemporaries perceived the man and his mythic qualities.
Landon, H. C. Robbins. Beethoven: A Documentary Study. New York: Macmillan, 1970. Print.
In his Documentary Study, Landons focuses on a selection of letters that closely reveal the character of Beethoven. These letters are either to or from Beethoven, or letters by 3rd parties that discuss Beethoven's temperament or reactions to events. In addition, he annotates a selection of portraits, sculptures, and paintings either of Beethoven or which Beethoven possessed when he died to further reveal Beethoven's interests as well as how others may have seen him in person. Landons covers a wide variety of topics such as his friendships, failed relationships, and even Beethoven's own favorite piece from his oeuvre. H. C. Robbins Landon, as expected of the venerated musicologist, achieves impartiality and presents both sides of the story when possible through primary documents. This curation and annotations of letters, conversation books, and other documents paints a complex picture of a man as one would expect of a great artist like Beethoven.
Lockwood, Lewis. Beethoven: The Music and the Life. New York: Norton, 2003. Print.
This biography of Beethoven by Lockwood presents Beethoven's life through the composer's development as an artist. He avoids the pitfalls of most other biographies by focusing on his music rather than the anecdotal stories to paint a convincing picture of Beethoven. This biography is not a collected volume of theoretical analyses. Rather, it traces his life through his career as a composer and the events surrounding his music. Lockwood weaves everything in Beethoven's life (the deafness, friendships, and triumphs among others) around each of his compositions. The new perspective Lockwood brings by focusing on his compositional career is indispensable and a worthwhile read.
Marek, George Richard. Beethoven: Biography of a Genius. New York: Funk, 1969. Print.
Marek gives a fresh insight into the life of Beethoven. His book is the first English biography which takes into account the new evidence such as then-recently discovered correspondences between Beethoven and Josephine Brunsvik. In addition, there have been no serious biographies in English since the early 1940s Since then, Emily Anderson's complete translations of Beethoven's letters as well as other new sources have been published. In the light of these new materials, Marek and his research team (spearheaded by the renowned musicology scholar H. C. Robbins Landon) has made a convincing and substantial presentation of Beethoven’s life which is unlike any other previous biography of Beethoven.
Newman, Ernst. The Unconscious Beethoven: An Essay in Musical Psychology. London: Gollancz, 1968. Print.
Newman attempts to dismantle the "romantic plaster-of-Paris in which [Beethoven] has gradually become encased." He faults the late 19th century for making him "an oracle whose plenary inspiration on all occasions it were blasphemy to doubt." Furthermore, Newman asserts that "his music was admired not simply in terms of music but as an achievement in morality." In dismantling these forces, Newman not only faults the nineteenth century but also Beethoven himself upon discovering that Beethoven aimed to create a reality-bubble, especially when it related to sexual morality. Although this antiquated book was never meant to be comprehensive, it still achieves what it set out to do—to give us a clear view of Beethoven the man.
Noli, Fan Stylian. Beethoven and the French Revolution. New York: International Universities P, 1947. Print.
Noli critically examines Beethoven's support of the French Revolution and its ideals. Beethoven is known for having supported Napoleon until Napoleon became himself a dictator. Noli credits Vincent d'Indy's critical biography of Beethoven for being the first to question Beethoven's support of the revolution and its ideals which had never been doubted before. Because much of the reception of Beethoven depends on his resistance against repressive forces both in his own life and for mankind, this is a problem "of the utmost importance," according to Noli. If it is true that Beethoven did not support the revolution nor believe in its ideals, there are major changes to be made in our perception of Beethoven. Noli admits that there are difficulties in drawing a conclusion: "an enormous mass of fantastic myths on the one hand and a heap of fragmentary facts on the other." In the end, however, Noli is able to reach a satisfying conclusion—an important one in understanding Beethoven as he truly was.
Phillips, Peter. "Musical Myth Making." Spectator 18 Apr. 1998: 38-9. Print.
Phillips points out the dangers of adulating Beethoven to the degree that "he can do no wrong even to the point here his most casual doodles are analyzed by academics for their significance." He critiques several aspects of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and charges the reader to give fresh look at the masterworks which “are not to be questioned.” This short article helpfully reminds us how far Beethoven has been cemented as infallible in our culture and why giving him another critical look is healthy.
Ronge, Julia. "Beethoven's Studies with Joseph Haydn (With a Postscript on the Length of Beethoven's Bonn Employment)." The Beethoven Journal 28.1 (2013): 4-25. Music Periodicals Database. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.
Ronge reexamines the life of Beethoven during his transition from Bonn to Vienna. She lays the groundwork by describing the timeline of events that led to the meeting between Beethoven and Haydn, the “discovery” of Beethoven’s compositional potential, and the subsequent training that Beethoven received from Haydn in Vienna and elsewhere. She pushes back on unreliable sources which have been used to create most-likely false anecdotes while giving light to reliable primary sources. In addition, the finances which allowed Beethoven to live and study in Vienna are discussed in detail which allows us to understand the kinds of pressure Haydn, Beethoven, and his sponsor (Elector of Cologne, Maximilian Franz) were under to make it a successful arrangement. This detailed writing by Ronge gives a comprehensive look into the life of Beethoven as a student of one of the most sought-after composers during his time. It not only allows us to see how Beethoven sharpened his craft as a young man, but also allows us to see what he was like as a person, student, and friend.
Schauffler, Robert Haven. Beethoven: The Man Who Freed Music. New York: Tudor, 1946. Print.
Schauffler was not satisfied with any of the existing biographies as none of them integrated the music with the man as much as he expected. In his own biography, he attempts to make him fully whole by combining Beethoven the person and Beethoven the composer without any boundaries. His central goal is to depict a man who "freed music." Schauffler organizes chapters by specific ideas into which his life events and compositions fit. These chapters are roughly chronological although not strictly so. The chapters are quite short and is by no means comprehensive, but it does coherently integrate the composer and his music. The interwoven musical examples do not feel intrusive. Rather, they feel genuinely placed to serve the narrative. Unfortunately, this book predates the recent decades' discoveries of Schindler's forgeries and therefore includes them as fact. However, the book stays clear from the statements of grandeur that Schindler often inspires, and stays grounded in fact. Although this biography is not comprehensive, its fantastic organization warrants attention.
Schindler, Anton. Beethoven as I Knew Him: A Biography. London: Faber, 1966. Print.
This biography was first published in 1840 in a less substantial form and was translated to English by none other than Ignace Moscheles, the person Beethoven trusted to produce the piano reduction of his only opera, Fidelio. It wasn't until 1860 when Schindler substantially revised and expanded the earlier biography. This biography is unique because of the privileged access Schindler had to Beethoven and his possessions for the last decade of his life and after his death. Therefore, the biography contains many facts, stories, and revealing characterizations about Beethoven that have not been mentioned elsewhere. However, musicological research of the recent decades has shown that Schindler is neither a reliable witness nor a trustworthy storyteller. In addition, his character is a dishonest one that puts personal gain over the integrity of Beethoven's legacy. Therefore, while this biography cannot be trusted in its entirety, its unique contents (much of which can be verified or substantiated) make this biography an essential tool to learning about Beethoven as this close individual knew him.
Sisman, Elaine. "'The Spirit of Mozart from Haydn's Hands': Beethoven's Musical Inheritance." The Cambridge Companion to Beethoven. Ed. Glenn Stanley. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 43-63. Print.
Sisman discusses Beethoven's unique position in completing the "holy trinity" of Haydn and Mozart. She points to Count Waldstein's sign-off as Beethoven left for Mozart in 1792: "you will receive the spirit of Mozart from the hands of Haydn." Sisman asserts that "Mozart's premature death and the position of Haydn as Beethoven's teacher in Vienna left Beethoven perfectly placed to come into his inheritance." In addition, she explores the last decades of the 18th century that allowed Beethoven to dominate the musical world in the 19th century. Examining Beethoven's musical inheritance is important not only to gain an understanding of his musical style but to also understand the reputation, opportunities, and friendships that came with it.
Solomon, Maynard. "Beethoven and His Nephew: A Reappraisal." Beethoven Studies. Ed. Alan Tyson. Vol. 2. New York: Oxford UP, 1978. 138-171. Print.
Solomon reexamines one of the most complicated and dramatic parts of Beethoven's life: his relationship with his nephew. Even in Beethoven's day, there were conflicting accounts and mixed feelings about Beethoven's handling of the situation. Solomon takes no sides and only acts to bring a fuller context to the story than any other source before it had. He uses psychological and economic approaches to determine why Beethoven acted the way he did, and through this work, we are not only able to better understand Beethoven's puzzling actions regarding his nephew but his character as a whole.
———. "Economic Circumstances of the Beethoven Household in Bonn." Journal of the American Musicological Society 50.2 (1997), 331-51. JSTOR. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.
Solomon provides a comprehensive financial condition of the household in which Beethoven grew up. He makes the case that the Beethoven household was not one of destitute poverty as many in the past (including the great Thayer) have claimed. Part of the hero-complex which Beethoven has achieved comes from the imagery of him rising out of poverty. In refuting this myth, Solomon asserts that Beethoven grew up in a modest home, if not with comfort. They were not wealthy by any measure, but the stories of his family having to pawn their possessions for food are proven to be false. Solomon aggregates surviving court documents, accounting books, letters, and known inheritance from Beethoven's grandparents to estimate approximate household income and discusses what it would have meant at the time based on what we know of the costs of living in Bonn. In addition, Solomon provides evidence that the young Beethoven also worked with (and sometimes without) pay as an organist, composer, and chamber musician as a teenager which contributed to the family's bottom line. It's important to accurately understand the financial picture of the Beethoven family in order to assess what is myth and what is not.
———. "Reason and Imagination: Beethoven's Aesthetic Evolution." Historical Musicology: Sources, Methods, Interpretations. Ed. Stephen A. Crist and Roberta Montemorra Marvin. Rochester: U of Rochester P, 2004. 188-203. Print.
Solomon combs through documents of Beethoven—letters, conversation books, and annotations he made in books—among other sources to trace a history of Beethoven's thoughts on evolving aesthetics of his own and others' works. He summarizes Beethoven’s own observations of his struggle as an "antagonism between spiritual and material spheres." He also depicts an artist who was human in that delight and wonder often overpowered his resolve for reason and virtue. Although Beethoven could be quite stubborn, he acknowledged his own internal development "which roughly parallels the evolution of ideas coming into play against the backdrop of the Habsburg [Enlightenment], the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Era, and the post-Congress of Vienna years." By understanding Beethoven's own awareness of his ever-changing aesthetics as an artist, we are able to better grasp how he—like all other artists—was human, not a myth.
Specht, Richard. Beethoven As He Lived. Trans. Alfred Kalisch. London: Macmillan, 1933. Print.
Specht's biography of Beethoven focuses on different aspects of his life in a semi-chronological order. He admits that while the biography does not aim to make any groundbreaking assertions about Beethoven, it does synthesize previously-known information in new perspectives. Specht's goal is "to create anew the figure of [Beethoven] not from other biographies, but solely from his works, his letters, and his sayings, from the reminiscences of his contemporaries, from diaries and in small details, from verbal tradition." His target reader is "the plain man, and not even to the expert." This refreshing motivation in crafting a new biography of Beethoven is worth a read—it captures the spirit of Beethoven in an easy-to-understand way that has not been done before.
Staehelin, Martin. "A Veiled Judgment of Beethoven by Albrechtserger?" Beethoven Essays: Studies in Honor of Elliot Forbes. Ed. Lewis Lockwood and Phyllis Benjamin. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1984. 46-52. Print.
This article explores an often-ignored aspect of Beethoven's life—his time as a student of Albrechtsberger. Staehelin blames the lack of surviving documents for this ignorance and presents for the first time an unpublished letter from Albrechtsberger to Breitkopf. This letter is presented in both the original German as well as the English translation, and it sheds new light on Albrechtsberger and his relationship with Beethoven. Given this new evidence, Staehelin makes the claim that Albrechtsberger liked Beethoven as a person but saw little prospect in his future as a composer. Understanding Beethoven's relationship with Albrechtsberger allows us to understand how Beethoven dealt with teachers whose personal goals and intentions differed from his own and ultimately how he grew from a young man to a great master.
Glenn, Stanley. "Beethoven at Work: Musical Activist and Thinker." The Cambridge Companion to Beethoven. Ed. Stanley. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 14-31. Print.
Stanley discusses several important facets of our perception of Beethoven today including his relationships with patrons, his demeanor as pianist and conductor, and the last years of his life which he lived out in isolation. This essay is not so much an overview of Beethoven's life but selected specifically to shed light on the different realms in which he lived and worked. Stanley's selected vignettes paint a man who was as idealistic as practical. In this easy-to-read chapter—which Stanley has packed with many facets of Beethoven normally spread out through entire books—there is a lot to be learned about Beethoven.
Suchet, John. Beethoven: The Man Revealed. New York: Grove P, 2013. Print
Although Suchet admits that his biography of Beethoven does not include any previously undiscovered sources, it does for the first time in English include many obscure materials that have not been published or examined in many decades and never in English. It includes detailed material on matters that past biographies have long-neglected such as the young Beethoven’s trip up the Rhine with a court orchestra and his childhood. Suchet argues that his formative years as a child and teenager influenced the man he became, and his biography of Beethoven makes it clear that nothing will be left unturned.
Sullivan, John William Navin. Beethoven: His Spiritual Development. London: Cape, 1927. Print.
Sullivan discusses Beethoven's predispositions and characteristics and how they evolved over time. Topics discussed include power, money, love, religion, spirituality, and even the nature of music. The book is quite old, and Sullivan is somewhat antiquated in his grand and heroic language of Beethoven which is full of overcoming-struggle metaphors. However, many of his observations of Beethoven, most of which are backed by Beethoven's letters and conversation books, are useful to getting at the core of Beethoven, the man, and how he changed with age and experience, like the rest of us.
Swafford, Jan. Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, a Biography. Boston: Harcourt, 2014. Print.
In this biography, Swafford confronts the fact that Beethoven has become, like few others before and after him, a cultural artifact. She notes that there is "great danger in that kind of ubiquity" and aims the present the man with brutal honesty. In many ways, she provides evidence to support the kind of Beethoven that the myth presented: "in his person rough, crude, and fractious, in his music everything from crude to transcendent." In many other ways, she provides the evidence to support a much different Beethoven—the one that the myth hasn't reinforced for the last 200 years. Beethoven, like most of us, was a complex human being, and Swafford presents him as such. This biography—a book written for the general public, not musicians—is not only a fun read but one that presents an unvarnished Beethoven through evidence.
Thayer, Alexander Wheelock. Life of Beethoven. Ed. Elliot Forbes, Hermann Deiters, Hugo Riemann, and Henry Edward Krehbiel. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1967. Print.
Alexander Wheelock Thayer's biography of Beethoven is by far the most widely accepted Beethoven biography written in English. Thayer, an American, scoured court records, notices, Beethoven's own documents, and "reminiscences from anyone he could visit who had been in any way associated with Beethoven or had personal recollection of him." Thayer's biography is widely accepted because it stays away from wild theories or sensationalist writing. Thayer himself stated: "I fight for no theories and cherish no prejudices; my sole point of view is the truth. . . . I have resisted the temptation to discuss the character of his works and to make such a discussion the foundation of historical speculation." In the late 1800s, Thayer published three volumes comprising of his biography of Beethoven up to the year 1816. He died in 1897 before completing the volume on the last decade of Beethoven's life. Forbes' edition takes the work of Krehbiel (who first completed Thayer's biography using his manuscripts) and updates it with new research and translations. In getting to know Beethoven, the man, there is not a better resource.
Tyson, Alan. "Beethoven to the Countess Susanna Guicciardi: A New Letter." Beethoven Studies. Ed. Alan Tyson. Vol. 1. New York: Oxford UP, 1973. 1-17. Print.
Tyson gives full context of a previously unpublished letter (as of 1973) by Beethoven to Countess Susanna Guicciardi which reveals a lot about his temperament and character. Although this letter is now included in collection of letters since its publication, the commentary by Tyson was revelatory at the time of its publishing, and it includes significant contextual information revealing a lot about Beethoven, especially as it relates to his love life. It also reveals much about Beethoven's temperament and his use of words—an important aspect of understanding not only who he was but how he was perceived by others around him.
Webster, James. "The Falling-out Between Haydn and Beethoven: The Evidence of the Sources." Beethoven Essays: Studies in Honor of Elliot Forbes. Ed. Lewis Lockwood and Phyllis Benjamin. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1984. 1-46. Print.
The relationship between Haydn and Beethoven remains a controversial topic with musicologists who are unable to unanimously agree on the nature of it. Webster's article makes the case that most of what is written about the nature of their relationship in current scholarship is based largely on anecdotes that were published decades after Beethoven's death and are from unreliable people. He then paints a comprehensive picture of the relationship based only on primary sources including letters to and from Beethoven and Haydn (to each other and others). The article refutes some popular ideas such as "the notion that Beethoven felt superior to Haydn as a composer" with evidence to the contrary. Understanding how Beethoven acted as a student and as a new up-and-coming composer is important to knowing who he was a man, and in this regard, Webster is very helpful.
Wegeler, Franz, and Ferdinand Ries. Remembering Beethoven. Trans. Frederick Noonan. London: Deutsch, 1987. Print.
Wegeler, one of Beethoven's closest friends from Bonn, and Ries, one of Beethoven's two compositional students and his most trusted friend came together to write this short but trustworthy biography. They rejected a proposal by Schindler to write a biography together and instead produced this on their own. The biography is full of anecdotes of varying length that reveal Beethoven's character, and there are no chapter headings or even any particular method of organization. Christopher Hogwood, the esteemed conductor, writes in the foreword that "this is Beethoven the Man rather than Beethoven the Myth." In the quest to find the true Beethoven, the man, we can find no authors closer to Beethoven than Wegeler and Ries.