The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824

Harvey Sachs, Author . Random $26 (225p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6077-1

Beethoven wasn't always a cultural icon. At least one critic attending the 1824 premiere of his Symphony No. 9 in D Minor likened what he heard to a “hideously writhing wounded dragon.” Just why the composer and his works endure is the question behind this absorbing book by music historian Sachs (Toscanini ). Through detailed musical analysis and condensed readings of cultural politics and 19th-century history, Sachs ponders “what role so-called high culture played, plays, and ought to play in civilization.” Using the year 1824 and the premiere of the Ninth as ground zero, Sachs reviews the literary, artistic, and social movements of the time, noting how Beethoven's innovative symphony (the first with a vocal score) and its themes of equality and redemption no doubt challenged the resurgent conservatism among Europe's monarchies. Sachs places Beethoven alongside Pushkin, Byron, and other prominent romantics, whose talents he finds linked to a common quest for freedoms—political, artistic, and “above all of the mind and spirit.” After first presenting the Ninth as a Viennese social event and then as emblematic of Beethoven's artistic process, Sachs shines with a close reading of the Ninth's musical score, interpreting its techniques and emotive narrative. Readers will want a recording nearby. In the book's last chapter, Sachs deals with the impact and legacy of Beethoven's masterwork and explains what makes his music universal. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/15/2010
Release date: 06/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-571-27095-8
Open Ebook - 166 pages - 978-1-58836-981-9
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-73427-3
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-8129-6907-8
Paperback - 225 pages - 978-0-571-22146-2
Hardcover - 225 pages - 978-0-571-22145-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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