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Beethoven: The Universal Composer

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  755 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
“Brilliant....This book is a perfect marriage—or should one say, duet—of subject and author, every word as masterly as the notes of the artist it illuminates.” — Christopher Buckley, Forbes

“This is not just criticism but poetry in itself, with the additional—and inestimable—merit of being true.” — Washington Post Book World

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris (The R
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 4th 2005 by Eminent Lives (first published January 1st 2005)
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Aug 01, 2016 Tony added it
Shelves: music
Edmund Morris' three-volume work on Theodore Roosevelt is, in my view, one of the very great works of biography ever written. So I was happy to stumble across this biography of Beethoven in a used book store. I opened it as I was reading Alejo Carpentier's 'The Chase' which deals with the Eroica symphony. And I couldn't put it down.

Now, this is a life story I already knew fairly well; and there's nothing new in this rendering, although Morris writes with authority on such controversies as exist.
M. Fenn
Sep 29, 2012 M. Fenn rated it it was ok
Interesting and disappointing. Interesting, because Beethoven's life was pretty interesting. Disappointing, in that it's a pretty shallow look into his life. No new scholarship; it doesn't even bring up the new thoughts about what killed Ludwig (lead poisoning). Disappointing, too, in that I remembered who Edmund Morris is. He's the guy who wrote Dutch, the bio on Reagan that's part fiction. Makes we wonder what he added to Beethoven's life, although he got the skeleton right, from what I know ...more
Jul 30, 2013 Sayaf rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"لم يعد لك نصيب في السعادة إلا مع نفسك وفي فنك. وارباه! هب لي القوة لكي أتغلب على نفسي، لا بد ألا يعيقني شيء عن الحياة." كيف لا تقرأ سيرة من قال هذه الكلمات؟ سيرة بيتهوفن غريبة جداً، لأنك أحيانًا تتعاطف معه بشدّة، وأحيانًا تقول: ما هذا الأبله؟ مزاجي ولكن صاحب موهبة عبقرية، وكما ذكر إدموند موريس نقلاً عن من عاصروا بيتهوفن ذلك الوقت، يحمل شخصيتين مختلفتين، فعلى سبيل الموهبة مذهل جداً، وعلى سبيل شخصه نفسه، فحالته مزرية وحزينة. ولا تعلم فأحيانًا تقول أن السبب هو فقدان سمعه بعدما كتب تلك الرسالة التي ...more
Aug 30, 2015 Alaa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
لك أن تتخيل فقط أنه في أعظم أعماله الأخيرة كان يعزف على البيانو قارعاً للمفاتيح في يأسٍ -بعد إصابته بالصمم- حتى قيل عنه : الجلبة الكامنة في الجانب الاخر من الصمت
من يصدق أن من كان بارعاً في المعمار الموسيقي كان مصاباً بعسر القراءة ويربكه فن الحساب؟
من يصدق ان عازفاً عبقرياً ذاع صيته في الأرض صبياً كان ابناً لأب سكيِّر فقير وأم كئيبة معدمة ؟

سيرة موجزة وممتعة ولكن لتستمتع أكثر لابد ان تكون لديك خلفية فنية لا بأس بها عن المصطلحات والالات الموسيقية
Greg Z
Jul 20, 2016 Greg Z rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Edmund Morris appears to state the facts about Beethoven, as opposed to Marcia Davenport's lush, deeply personal "Mozart" in which she does state that her story is not a text-book. Morris does give us more of a "text-book" than Davenport, but I was deeply drawn in to the last days of Beethoven. I knew of his deafness, but not about the other, and very serious, savages to his body and mind. And the fight for custody over a child, also new to me, is the product of the very sick mind of Beethoven. ...more
Scott Taylor
Feb 13, 2011 Scott Taylor rated it liked it
Beethoven has always been a favorite of mine. I play piano, own a piano, and have many of his works. All I knew of the man going into this was that he was...temperamental, for lack of a better word. This book definitely confirms that, and adds alot of color. Though its not the most coherent biography I've ever read, by a long shot.

The historical setting and cast of characters are well established. Various wars, mostly having to do with Napolean, are mentioned when they affected Beethoven or his
Betty Confetti
Apr 23, 2016 Betty Confetti rated it liked it
This biography is fairly short, and Edmund Morris is a Beethoven fan. It is through that lens that one sees Beethoven and his work. Morris provides intellectual assessments of a wide variety of compositions of the genius artist with incredibly flowery language. But he is not really a music critic, and so understanding this, I give the biography 3 stars. If you want a detailed read that gives a lot of wonderful information, this is a book for you. The biography is sequential rather than one ...more
Don Weidinger
Oct 22, 2013 Don Weidinger rated it really liked it
moved 80 times, deaf in 30’s, 1778 Cologne first performance, Dec 16 1770, alcoholic dad when teenager, after 4 children lost, main squeeze descriptor of leaders, German power center in Vienna (Austria-Hungary), flog and lock in cellar, piano and violin lessons devoid of creativity regiment by father, genius creativity frightening in proximity to madness, unteachable gift of perfect pitch—12 tone scale, daily mass, Bonn at 16, short latin temper scowl eccentric deep thought orchestra exposure ...more
Jacob Lines
Oct 09, 2015 Jacob Lines rated it liked it
I picked this up because I’ve read some of Morris’s other stuff. He is a great historian, and I like Beethoven’s music, so it seemed worth a read. It was. This book is short enough – 229 little pages – to not blog down, and long enough to give a good feel for his life. As you would expect from an eminent historian, Morris does a really good job of explaining Beethoven’s life and the culture and politics that surrounded him. He also does a wonderful job of explaining the music – what came before, ...more
Aug 28, 2007 Wade rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
This is a very interesting account of the life of Beethoven. Its really a pretty short biography (about 225 pages, and the pages are pretty small). You do need to have some musical understanding to enjoy this book. There is a very helpful glossary in the back of musical terms. But he talks about the absurdity of Beethoven switching form C major to C mnor to the key of E back to C major. So, if that doesn't mean anything at all to you, you won't enjoy this book. Having said all of that: Beethoven ...more
Dec 02, 2013 Alexander rated it really liked it
An interesting and good short biography of one of my favorite composers. A very fast and lively read, as I've come to expect from Edmund Morris. Helpful to have some recordings on hand as you read in case you want to listen to a piece as you're reading about it. Recommended.
Oct 25, 2008 Erik rated it it was amazing
Morris is a superb writer who, when given the opportunity to write out of the box, is as good as it gets. The epilogue to this great little biography of Beethoven is perfect.
Jul 13, 2010 Marco rated it it was amazing
Best life ever. Except for Jesus, and the like...
ahmed Eid
Nov 19, 2016 ahmed Eid rated it it was amazing
المراجعة بها تجاوزات إن تقبلها أو لا تقبلها فتبًا لي و لك في كل حال ..


"صفقوا يا أصدقاء فقد إنتهت الكوميديا " وكور قبضته ورفعها ،ونظر نحو السماء بغضب شديد وبصق فسقطت بصقته على ثيابه و سقط صريعًا ودوي من

السماء صوت رعد ..
هل سمع صاحب السيمفونية التاسعة السيمفونية التاسعة ؟

نحن لا نسأل مثل تلك الأسئلة لكن الضرورة تُبيح ان نتأمل فن بيتهوفن لوهلة قليلة ، ربّما وصلنا إلى فكرة جديدة عن بروم
Robin Friedman
Aug 28, 2014 Robin Friedman rated it it was amazing
For most listeners, myself included Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 -- 1827) remains the greatest of composers. Edmund Morris's highly readable brief biography, "Beethoven: The Universal Composer" tries, in a straightforward way, to explain the sources of the inspiration that listeners have found and continue to find in Beethoven's music. Morris's book is part of a series. titled "Eminent Lives" of short biographies of famous people written for non-specialist readers. Morris has written biographies ...more
Chris Bailey
Jun 05, 2012 Chris Bailey rated it liked it
Shelves: irp-books
Ludwig van Beethoven; a man of passion and charisma. As one of the most well-known composers in the history of mankind, Beethoven had influenced many composers to create musical pieces containing the same ideas and styles he had perfected. Although a majority of the world has heard of Beethoven and his music, most people don't know what happened during his lifetime. The biography "Beethoven: The Universal Composer" by Edmund Morris superbly explained Beethoven's lifetime and struggles. The ...more
Steven Peterson
Jul 14, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing
Edmund Morris' biography of Ludwig van Beethoven, part of the "Eminent Lives" series, is delightful. Edmund Morris has written biographies of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. He also plays piano, studies music, and has been examining Beethoven for decades and decades. The combination works very well here.

The front dust jacket comments place this 200 page volume in perspective. "Edmund Morris, the author of three bestselling presidential biographies and a lifelong devotee of Beethoven, brin
So Hakim
Jun 10, 2014 So Hakim rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, culture
As any classical music listener can attest, Ludwig van Beethoven had somewhat "crazy" aura seeping through his compositions. Indeed he was a tormented man. Not because he was not appreciated, but because of his own personality. Beethoven the man was hot-headed and melancholic at almost the same time. Such emotional quality, however, became a blessing: it made him a pioneer of Romanticism in Europe.

The thing about Beethoven is this: he was a transitional figure. Someone with strong classical sens
Aug 17, 2010 Eric rated it really liked it
I loved the question posed by Enid Bagnold to a feminist: Page 11. What advice would you give to a twenty-three-year-old housewife who, having lost four children, found herself pregnant again by an abusive, alcoholic husband.
"I would urge her to teminate the pregnance," the feminist replied.
"Then," said Ms. Bagnold, "you would have aborted Beethoven."

Enjoyable look at the man riddled for years with diarrhea, which medical historians suggest lead to his ultimate deafness. The author integrates de
Oct 08, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it
"In the Testament, he revealed (or rather, filed away in a hidden drawer) the most awful fact that a musician can face: that he was going deaf. He was thirty-one years old, and had long been tormented by buzzings and whistlings in his ears. At first, he hoped they might respond to medicine. When they did not, he had to live with them. By 1808, he could longer hide his condition: anyone who heard him conduct or play the piano (desperately pounding the keys) could tell that Beethoven now lived in ...more
Dec 05, 2012 Eric rated it liked it
I would consider myself to be of fairly high reading level and this book was a challenge. My best advice: read near a computer so you can look up every other word. I believe Edmund Morris goes out of his way to use uncommon words, almost to show off his literary prowess. Then when you read the short blurb on him in the book, it says he use to have to sell products through the use of words, so it follows that the book would reflect this.

The book seemed to really crawl through some of the more, i
Feb 06, 2013 Patrick rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history, music
I didn't have any particular expectations when starting this book, other than learning a bit more about Beethoven than what I could find on Wikipedia.

The author, Edmund Morris, obviously knows a lot about Beethoven's music. I found myself having to stop during the book and listen to the music for the particular passages he mentions. I also learned more about the breadth of Beethoven's compositions, from the familiar symphonies and piano sonatas to the less familiar works such as the funeral mass
Blue Weasel
Jan 30, 2012 Blue Weasel rated it really liked it
I first became interested in Beethoven in 2nd or 3rd grade, while completing a report on a composer for music class. He always stuck in the back of my mind, such a seemingly moody man. 20+ years later I decided to revisit his life story.

I didn't find the book as dry as some other reviewers reported, but I did find it a little technical in the description of Beethoven's pieces. I did not completely comprehend what the author was trying to get across (at times) in his description of notes being pu
Garrett Burnett
Nov 10, 2009 Garrett Burnett rated it really liked it
Morris begins the book by explaining that it is for the lay people, not trained music folks. I appreciate how highly he thinks of us lay people, but I spent a fair amount of time not knowing exactly what he was talking about: cantatas, counterpoint, and a number of technical terms I tuned out immediately. As he describes Beethoven's life, Morris also (obviously) describes his music. I checked out lots of Beethoven from the library so I could follow along. I don't much of Beethoven's music--even ...more
May 28, 2015 Sandra rated it really liked it
I know I know, It took me forever to read this. I bought it print and the print was so tiny! heh. Not only that, but this had to be read in front of my computer. I don't have any real understanding of the German language, and though you need not be an expert in "classical" music, it might be helpful if you understood fluent German or have Google keyed up.

I did find this to be very informative in beginning to understand the influence the era had on both the life and the music of this man and his
The American Conservative
''Morris shares something of Beethoven’s sheer verbal bluntness: anyone who can, like Morris in his prologue, dismiss Mahler with the single superb epithet “masturbatory” possesses an obvious scorn for fads. There is also in Morris something of Beethoven’s astounding compressive gifts. In fewer than 250 widely-spaced pages of actual text, Morris conveys Beethoven’s depth with a skill that eludes many a dissertation twice as long. Here is no mere sketch, no dumbed-down Cliff’s Notes-style résumé ...more
May 20, 2013 Skye rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Granted, it is my first Beethoven biography because I wanted a digested volume to begin with and have since gotten turned onto Thayer's Life of Beethoven. I also didn't know Schindler was such a shithead. I'm glad I didn't read his bogus book before this one. Everything in this book made it enjoyable to read and the personal commentary was great. My only dislike was the very beginning and ending with the modern boom box No.5 event. That modern relation to ...more
Rik Brooymans
Apr 15, 2013 Rik Brooymans rated it really liked it
I am now fully convinced I could read Edmund Morris write on just about any topic and still find it enjoyable. Beethoven, or classical music or composers, was never a topic of interest to me, but I found myself as engrossed as I was with his Roosevelt biographies. He has this certain way of making everything seem close and relevant. There was an added warmth to this book that was missing in others, perhaps to do with his great love of the subject.

So if you're a fan of classical music, it's a mus
Jan 17, 2014 Carl rated it liked it
Edmund Morris, I suppose, is best known for his great books on Teddy Roosevelt, but according to Wikipedia, is also a serious musician who even considered becoming a concert pianist. Which explains why he chose to write a good solid biography of Beethoven.

There is a good deal of technical music talk that went over my head. Diminished augmented minor sevenths etc.

I was surprised by what a rotten nasty guy Beethoven was. I had heard he was unpleasant, but I didn’t know he hit a patron over the hea
Nov 23, 2015 Richard rated it really liked it
Applaud, my friends! The comedy is over! -- Last words of Ludwig van Beethoven, the world's most famous musical composer. This book takes a delightful look at his life, with an emphasis on his LIFE over his compositions (it promises in the beginning that you don't need to be an expert on classical music to follow this book) and does a good job of debunking all of the myths associated with him. Also introduced me to the Death Cantata for Emperor Joseph II, which is an amazing work which got his ...more
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Edmund Morris is a writer best known for his biographies of United States presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Morris received his early education in Kenya after which he attended Rhodes University in South Africa. He worked as an advertising copywriter in London before emigrating to the United States in 1968.
His biography The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt won the Pulitzer Prize and Natio
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“Ordinary psyches often react to bad news with a momentary thrill, seeing the world, for once, in jagged clarity, as if lightning has just struck. But then darkness and dysfunction rush in. A mind such as Beethoven's remains illumined, or sees in the darkness shapes it never saw before, which inspire rather than terrify. This altered shape (raptus, he would say) makes art of the shapes, while holding in counterpoise such dualities as intellect and intuition, the conscious and the unconscious, mental health and mental disorder, the conventional and the unconventional, complexity and simplicity.” 5 likes
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