Beethoven

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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

Featuring integrated music and full orchestra recordings.

Ludwig van Beethoven: to some, simply the greatest ever composer of Western classical music. Yet his life remains shrouded in myths, and the image persists of him as an eccentric genius shaking his fist at heaven.

Beethoven by Oxford professor Laura Tunbridge cuts through the noise in a refreshing way. Each chapter focuses on a period of his life, a piece of music and a revealing theme, from family to friends, from heroism to liberty. It’s a winning combination of rich biographical detail, insight into the music and surprising new angles, all of which can transform how you listen to his works. We discover, for example, Beethoven’s oddly modern talent for self-promotion, how he was influenced by factors from European wars to instrument building, and how he was heard by contemporaries.

This tour de force – published for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth – provides a fresh overview and a wealth of material that has never been revealed to the wider public before. It’s a compelling, human portrayal of Beethoven and a fascinating journey into one of the world’s most amazing creative minds.

© Laura Tunbridge 2020 (P) Penguin Audio 2020

Critics Review

  • We are doubly blessed that Beethoven should have led such an extraordinary life. Laura has combined the two – the genius of his music and the richness of his experiences – to shine a revealing light on our greatest composer

    John Humphrys
  • This book is really wonderful! Nine works of Beethoven from different times in his life tell the story of that life – nine windows through which the man and his music are revealed with captivating clarity. We often speak about the ‘universal spirit’ of Beethoven but this book also brings to life how he fits into, and indeed creates, the new universe of cultural life which was born as the nineteenth century began. However many books on Beethoven you own, find the space for one more. This one

    Stephen Hough, pianist, composer, writer
  • In a year when everyone’s looking for a new take on Beethoven, Laura Tunbridge has found nine. It makes great sense to look at the composer not thematically but in selected fragments, taking us nine small steps closer to his elusive totality. Fresh and engaging

    Norman Lebrecht, author of Genius and Anxiety
  • I truly enjoyed reading it . . . Excellent . . . Laura Tunbridge upends the two-centuries-old image of Beethoven as a Promethean Titan heroically composing works of genius on his isolated rock of suffering. She convincingly argues that Beethoven’s current iconic status must be understood within the context of his financial dealings and lifetime of often affable, sometimes acerbic, vibrant interchanges with family members, other composers, patrons, friends, musicians, singers, publishers, producers, and makers of musical instruments. Her detailed musical analyses of familiar as well as now rarely-performed works of Beethoven converse with one another as well as with other music of the era and with quotidian life in Vienna. This well researched and accessible book is a must read for all who seek to know more about the flesh and blood tangible Beethoven and the checkered history of his reception than about the Beethoven of unfathomable mythic immensity

    John Clubbe, author of Beethoven: The Relentless Revolutionary
  • Mark that young man, he will make a name for himself in the world

    Mozart after hearing the young Beethoven play
  • Tunbridge has come up with the seemingly impossible: a new way of approaching Beethoven’s life and music . . . and in every chapter a superb – and accessible to non-musicians – analysis of the music . . . profoundly original and hugely readable

    John Suchet, author Beethoven: The Man Revealed

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