Anguish and Triumph : A Biography

Book - 2014
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The definitive book on the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven, written by the acclaimed biographer of Brahms and Ives.
Jan Swafford’s biographies of Charles Ives and Johannes Brahms have established him as a revered music historian, capable of bringing his subjects vibrantly to life. His magnificent new biography of Ludwig van Beethoven peels away layers of legend to get to the living, breathing human being who composed some of the world’s most iconic music. Swafford mines sources never before used in English-language biographies to reanimate the revolutionary ferment of Enlightenment-era Bonn, where Beethoven grew up and imbibed the ideas that would shape all of his future work. Swafford then tracks his subject to Vienna, capital of European music, where Beethoven built his career in the face of critical incomprehension, crippling ill health, romantic rejection, and “fate’s hammer,” his ever-encroaching deafness. Throughout, Swafford offers insightful readings of Beethoven’s key works.

More than a decade in the making, this will be the standard Beethoven biography for years to come. 

Baker & Taylor
Provides a detailed overview of the life of Ludwig van Beethoven, from Enlightenment-era Bonn to the musical capital of Vienna, describing the composer's career, ill health, and romantic rejections.

& Taylor

An esteemed music historian provides a rich, detailed overview of the life of Ludwig van Beethoven, traveling from Enlightenment-era Bonn to the musical capital of Europe, Vienna, to vividly describe the composer's career, ill health and romantic rejections. 25,000 first printing.

Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
ISBN: 9780618054749
Branch Call Number: B SWAFFORD 2014
Characteristics: xxi, 1077 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), music ; 24 cm


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Nicr Jan 07, 2019

Beethoven vividly placed in his time as Enlightenment artist and nascent Romantic. A transitional figure, "[a]s usual, he conceives his ideas in terms of familiar formal outlines." But into those outlines, he pours a fiery and experimental Romanticism and "bend[s] formal traditions...nearly beyond recognition." Irascible and implacably confident, tragic in his impending deafness from age 27, but also amazingly resilient and defiant, Swafford seems to see Beethoven's character as largely shaped by external forces--his abusive father, illness, etc. A composer himself, Swafford extracts Beethoven's process from his sketchbooks and offers insightful, often quite detailed analysis of the works. Repetitive on some points, but a mammoth achievement.

Jan 03, 2019

Quite a whopper of a book: almost 950 pages of text, and extensive notes, many of them explanatory and elaborative. There is relatively little of printed music in it, but lots of biographical matters (controversies, mysteries, places, and living arrangements), and perfect dose of explaining music as needed, and particular compositions in detail: the Heroic symphony (#3), the Ninth symphony, the Missa Solemnis get the most, various piano sonatas, and string works also get a fair share. There is a fair account made of the late works, which are diplomatically described as forever modern. Best of all there are little bits that describe the man, his work, and which can be taken as good advice to ambitious composers reading the book, for example, always keep the whole in view, what is difficult is good, and several others. Scholarly and thorough without being stuffy or intimidating; friendly and not condescending. A great biography.

Sep 09, 2018

It is very useful to listen to each piece of music as it comes up in the text - hail to youtube!

Jul 19, 2015

At over 900 pages, the book might seem somewhat overwhelming if it were not so interesting and well written, with the exception of some puzzling syntax at times.

I do admit to skimming some of the technical explications of musical composition that were beyond my comprehension.
In addition to the text, the book includes a lengthy bibliography, exhaustive endnotes, many with interesting commentary, and an index that is elegant, well constructed, and generally thorough.

I think it would have been useful if the book had included an appendix of the works discussed in the text, at least those discussed in some length, along with their opus numbers and dates of composition.


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