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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  826 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Maynard Solomon is that rarest of writers on classical music: a well-trained expert who is also gutsy and humane, and who knows about life. He had the courage to write in recent years about Franz Schubert's homosexuality, which, judging by the size of the polemic that ensued, some academics were still not ready to hear about. But for many readers, Solomon's masterpiece is ...more
Published October 1st 1979 by MacMillan Publishing Company (first published 1977)
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I am obsessed with Beethoven for reasons I don't fully understand. I'm not musically inclined and I didn't develop a love for classical music until later in life. But Beethoven's music moves me deeply and I decided I had to know the man behind it.
This book brought him to life for me. For those who are not obsessed, it would seem boring, but to me, it was like gaining deeper knowledge of someone I already love. A bit like reading a grandmother's diary, only far more disturbing. It brought him do
'Aussie Rick'
Firstly an admission, I have no prior knowledge of Beethoven other than I enjoy listening to his music. That said I enjoyed this book although I had problems getting around some of the technical details in regards to his music. I bought this book some time ago but only got around to reading it after watching the video `Immortal Beloved'. This book answered a number of questions for me and certainly provided a deep and interesting look at the man behind the music I love so much. The author has br ...more
Sarah Milne
This is about as complete a biography of Beethoven as you are going to get. Unless you have a degree in music some of it will probably go in one ear and out the other, but that's not the end of the world. (Honestly, though, it did get boring at times.) The author offers up a plethora of information, much of which would have been better left to the end notes. A note for non-historians here: writing a historical work does not mean that every date and name must be included in the text - oh hell no. ...more
Robin Friedman
This is the second edition of Solomon's biography of Beethoven and it is an improvement in terms of both analysis and lucidity.
The book is written from a psychoanalytic point of view that all may not find convincing. However, the rudiments of Mr. Solomon's analysis, in terms of tracing Beethoven's life problems, his difficulties with women, with peers, and with himself to his childhood experiences probably transcends any specific psychological dogma and is insightful.
The book is a biography rath
One of the best biographies of a musician ever written. Solomon's solution of the "Immortal Beloved" puzzle is a brilliant piece of detective work.
Solomon psychoanalyzes Beethoven. I'm buying it because documentation about the man is poor, and I find Solomon's extrapolations persuasive. At the same time, to repeat, documentation is poor, and the resulting gaps are unsatisfying. He takes a creditable stab at unmasking The Immortal Beloved via some fairly dazzling detective work. Beethoven was a genius, but hardly a hero. The way he treated his nephew was reprehensible, probably driving the poor guy to suicide. Honestly, though, it was prett ...more
(ancora ai primi capitoli) mi trovo a dover ridefinire le mie attese da questo libro, molto alte dato il valore enorme del "Bach", e nuovamente mi trovo di fronte al difficile compito di separare un'opera dall'autore, o meglio di rileggere un autore alla luce della completezza delle sue opere. Per ora c'è troppo autore e poca opera, cosa non malvagia in sè, ma quell'impeto incontrollato che muove l'autore troppo s'avvicina ad uno sfogo estremo, impulsivo, estremamente personale... è quello che m ...more
This thorough and probing biography of Beethoven was fascinating from beginning to end. Solomon takes on both the facts of Beethoven's life and a deep, thoughtful analysis of the composer's psyche, artistic life, and socio-political context. he takes on both the inner and outer forces in Beethoven's life and thus succeeds in presenting a complex and finely nuanced portrait of the composer as a full person rather than the great, misunderstood artist of myth and legend. Solomon definitely does not ...more
James F
Solomon's biography of Mozart was excellent, so I was looking forward to reading this, and I wasn't disappointed. What I liked about both books was less the psychoanalytic emphasis (which was sometimes insightful and other times has to be taken cum grano salis) but the way he integrates the life and music with the history and culture of the period.
Solomon really achieved the remarkable with this biography, and I hold no doubts as to why it's as well regarded as it is. Unfortunately though, unless you have a very thorough knowledge of all of Beethoven's works (that is, could sing the primary and secondary themes to what feels like every movement of every Beethoven work off the top of your head right now...and I certainly can't), you can find yourself struggling to grasp his insights as firmly as he does. Not to say that you'll be constantl ...more
Mar 05, 2008 Julia rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves classical music
425 pages with photos and illustrations of the city he grew up, the various cities and towns he lived and worked in as well as reliable accounts of his state of mind during his increasing loss of hearing, depression and ailment of his bowel, most likely due to ulcers from stress and lead poisoning. The book also describes his love of nature and how he based much of his music on birdsong, the sound of wind through trees, thunderstorms, and the lovliness of the seasons. Letters he wrote but never ...more
Chris Kemp
First of all, if you want to read a book in a reasonable amount of time, do NOT fall in love shortly after starting the book!
As for the book itself, it is NOT for the casual reader. To fully appreciate it, you would have to be a composer and/or serious musician, or at least a hard-corps music aficionado. The book is quite pedantic at times, and resorts to some very bombastic prose in parts. And to add to the fun, there are many pages of highly speculative psychoanalysis of Beethoven, attempting
Of the 3 Beethoven biographies I've read, this is probably the best ... but that's not saying much:) It's the longest of the three, but also the least sincere. Solomon really should have stuck to the facts instead of forming opinions left and right about Beethoven. The book is weakest (and most annoying) when the author uses Sigmund Freud to wax endlessly about Beethoven in umpteen situations. It would have been far more credible just to present the facts. As the book goes on, it seems Solomon i ...more
Lots of psychoanalysis. I'm sure some of Solomon's Freudian conclusions are debatable, but he did a good (or appeared to a good) job of giving plenty of support for them, and it made the book very fascinating and quick to read. Solomon also is not the most "objective" author (refering to Beethoven as "Vienna's greatest composer" several times, just as a small example), but show me an objective biography and I'll show you a perfect circle. This book just drove home the point that an artist's psyc ...more
Until I read this book, I thought that I might be more compatible, or like to date, Beethoven over Mozart. (I read Solomon's Mozart biography previously.) But after reading this, I don't think so. Wow, such brilliant music, and such a troubled mind. At least in terms of relationships. Interesting the way the author alternates chapters describing his life with those describing the music he wrote during those periods. Made me want to listen to all his music with the book in hand. Very well researc ...more
Molly Winchenbach
A good thorough biography.
Since this is a rather scholarly biography, I can't use the same criterion when rating it that I used for most of the other books I've read recently. It wasn't gripping (obviously, since it took me almost two month to read). But it was interesting and very well-written and researched...which are musts when it comes to this type of book. I will admit to even being fascinated during a few of the chapters. A great study into the life and music of Beethoven. It brought back fun memories from Music 3 ...more
I don't know if I would give this a 4 anymore but when I read it for my Beethoven class freshman year I couldn't get enough of it. I remember it as a little bit dry, but it wove musical analysis into a standard biography in a really natural way and I definitely learned a ton. What a sad person Beethoven was. Everybody seemed sad back then. I sort of would like to reread this just to re-enhance the experience of listening to Beethoven, especially the non-symphonies.
A convincing portrait of a difficult man. Solomon's uses Freud's "Family Romance" to explain Beethoven's fraught relationships with women, his nephew, brothers, patrons and public. I feel I have a better understanding of Beethoven's growth as a composer -- of the musical problems he set for himself to solve. And I have the embarrassing yet delicious awareness that there's so much of his music that I haven't yet heard.
I can't comment on Solomon's historical/musical interpretation because I don't know much of Beethoven (or Classical music for that matter), but I appreciated how the story flowed.

From what he presents, his research is conclusive, and gives the reader a precise image of Beethoven's, to the greatest extend possible. A quick easy read for the casual Beethoven fan who's not familiar with his musical compositions.
This is actually the updated version of the first Beethoven book I read. It's the one that "got me hooked" on classical music as well as the life and times and Beethoven and his contemporaries. The images were abundant, and the biography was thorough, well-written and absolutely captivating. I felt as if I knew the man. It's still my favorite biography on Beethoven, and I plan on reading it again.
I enjoyed most of the purely biographical sections of this book, but i felt like killing myself every time the discussion switched to the music. I could pick any random sentence and say to you..."huh?" and "will I remember and / or care about this after finishing this book?"

I apologize to all those who get the musical and psychological stuff and appreciate it. It was just too much for me.
Considered one of the (if not The) definite bio of the Lovely Ludwig. It took me several installments, as my attention was always called away by another book or three, but I was glad I finally saw it through. I've always been a big fan of the music. To learn, as much as is possible, about the life of the man responsible was a treat, even if that man was no treat to know on a personal level.
This is a really splendid and extremely readable biography. Beethoven takes on flesh and blood in these pages, moving through a vividly conjured Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic Austria. One star off for the sometimes comically dogmatic Freudianism and for an excessively long and inconsequential chapter devoted to the identity of the so-called "immortal beloved"--who cares about this?
Feb 23, 2009 Bill rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beethoven fans
Shelves: nonfiction
Good biography of Beethoven. Solomon offers a realistic interpretation of the whole "immortal beloved" mystery. My main gripe with this book is that Solomon seems to think the only worthwhile way to delve in to Beethoven's psychological issues is via Freud. Why not consider any of the other equally valid approaches to interpret Beethoven's psychological make-up?
Solomon writes very well, and clearly did his homework here, crosschecking all primary sources, translations, and previous biographies. A Freudian reading of Beethoven's motivations is forefronted: I am generally very suspicious of such an approach, but Solomon is a convincing advocate for his interpretations. Even when I disagreed, I enjoyed reading this.
Very readable biography of Beethoven, especially interesting if one wants a psychological interpretation of his life and its effects upon his work. Solomon integrates Beethoven's life chronology with individual compositions in a way that given me greater appreciation for how groups of compositions are similar depending on when they were composed.
Shannon Hill
If you want to read this book, it helps to have some good recordings of the pieces Solomon refers to in the book, or at least some of the music reflecting the time periods he divides the book into. I'm looking forward to having the energy to read his book on Mozart someday -- it's a little hard to focus on anything with two babies!
Interesting enough, but not gripping. An entire early chapter on 5 years of sonatas and quartets isn't odd in a composer's biography, but that's not gripping. I really want to finish, but after almost two months and only getting through about 135 pages, I have to just give up and close it.
Solomon colma una lacuna tutta italiana, la mancanza di biografie di B. scientifiche e basate sul serio sui documenti. Peccato che Solomon travisi molte cose, che il libro non sia scevro da errore e sviste: una bella cura editoriale come si deve a questo libro non avrebbe fatto male!
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Word Game 3 5 Jun 19, 2013 03:43PM  
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Maynard Solomon was a co-founder of Vanguard Records as well as a music producer, and later became a writer on music
More about Maynard Solomon...
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