cover image Beethoven: The Relentless Revolutionary

Beethoven: The Relentless Revolutionary

John Clubbe. Norton, $39.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-393-24255-3

In this extensive work, historian Clubbe (The Beethoven Journal) expertly links Ludwig van Beethoven’s music with the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and Napoleon Bonaparte. Clubbe posits that Beethoven (1770–1827) was a lifelong revolutionary, growing up in the relatively liberal city of Bonn (now in Germany), where he became an avid follower of the Enlightenment and its revolutionary political idealism. As a young man Beethoven moved to Vienna, where he studied with Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn. In addition to being the center of the classical music world, Vienna was home to the capital of the Hapsburg Empire—a conservative city rife with censorship and political oppression. For Beethoven, the need to live in Vienna for his musical career made it impossible for him to give voice to his political views. Instead, Beethoven expressed his thoughts through his music, particularly his Eroica symphony (initially dedicated to Napoleon) and his only opera, Fidelio, both of which were revolutionary compositions for the time in subject matter and musical structure. This astute biography will appeal most to classical music fans, as well as those interested in the history of Enlightenment and revolutionary thinking in late 18th-century Europe. [em](July) [/em]