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3.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  382 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
"All men become brothers . . .
Be embraced, ye millions "
The Ninth Symphony, a symbol of freedom and joy, was Beethoven's mightiest attempt tohelp humanity find its way from darkness to light, from chaos to peace. Yet the work was born in a repressive era, with terrified Bourbons, Hapsburgs, and Romanovs using every means at their disposal to squelch populistrumblings in
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Published June 15th 2010 by Random House Publishing Group (first published January 1st 2010)
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Aug 05, 2010 Tony rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
The best part, for me, of this analysis of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is the author's study of what any musical score means, what it says. It's pretty easy to hear things like bird tweets in a nature score, or the grinding crush of ice in the opening of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. But onomatopoeia aside, what of music that just fills the hearer with emotion. I admit it. I am a sucker for an Adagio. Gorecki's Third almost destroyed me on first hearing. Is it enough just to feel it, or is it pref ...more
Timothy Hallinan
Aug 01, 2010 Timothy Hallinan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harvey Sachs is a writer of considerable power, and this book opened to me not only the world of Beethoven but also the world of the 19th century in Europe, especially the Romantic viewpoint. Sachs does a marvelous job of knitting together the political landscape, the impact of the French Revolution and the absolutist response to it, and the enormous destruction caused by Napoleon, and then translating all of that into a new perspective on art. His portrait of Beethoven, deaf, poor, depending on ...more
Tim C
Aug 29, 2012 Tim C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography, music
Several of the reviewers here on Goodreads seem not to have taken to the format in which this book is framed, but for me this is exactly what made it so enjoyable and accessible. I'm not a musician, nor a music aficionado - but I am a fan of Classical music and Beethoven in particular, and I am also a historian - so reading about the 9th in its cultural context, how it was written, what it represents and what was happening in Beethoveen's life at the time, was fascinating for me. Sach's has a pl ...more
Jul 11, 2010 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, history
I love Beethoven, and his Ninth is one of my favorite pieces of music, so this book was a natural for me to read. The analysis of the score itself, the time period in which it was written, and the effect it had on future music is interesting and very readable. However, the author's political bias, in places where it did not belong, marred my enjoyment of this book. (How the author felt about the Vietnam War really does not help me better understand Beethoven's writing.)
The most interesting parts of this book are Part One and Part Four. The former is a description, with some speculation, of the Ninth premier in Vienna in 1824. Part Four is an anecdotal account of Beethoven's influence on several composers born before May 7, 1824 (which leaves out, incredibly, Brahms!) This part also contains some reception history.

In Part Two Sachs analyzes several other pieces of romantic art that have some relation with the year 1824. I found this section of the book weak an
fascinating and informative. The year 1824 is presented as a year of monumental cultural achievements, not only in the launching of Beethoven's last and greatest symphonic work, but also in the works of Pushkin, Coleridge and others. These accomplishments are all set against the backdrop of the troubling spirit of the times characterized by the repressive backlash against the liberalizing reforms of Napoleon. Memories of what could have been, glimpses of another kind of world, are buried under t ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Aug 22, 2010 Bookmarks Magazine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sept-oct-2010
The aspect of The Ninth that most consistently impressed critics is Sachs's explanation of this musical masterpiece in a way that is accessible to all readers. They disagreed somewhat on the value of the work's attempt at historical and cultural contextualization, however. A few reviewers found that Sachs overreaches a bit by providing commentary on Beethoven's life from various perspectives, setting him in his historical context, analyzing his music, and then also examining his wider impact. Bu ...more
"The Ninth Symphony, a symbol of freedom and joy, was Beethoven’s mightiest attempt to help humanity find its way from darkness to light, from chaos to peace. Yet the work was born in a repressive era." This promo copy really says it best.

I hadn't thought that much about the Romantic Period (early 1800s) in art/poetry/music even though that's where I seem to hail from. This book brought it into clearer focus. Rooted in the personal freedoms won in the French Revolution but then squelched by the
A fair account of what must be one of the most popular pieces of "classical" music written. Sachs takes numerous approaches to the subject: he conjures up Beethoven's thoughts at the premier, he vividly describes what was surely an atrocious performance at that premier, and he ties other important artists working in 1824--from Pushkin to Heine--into the implicit aesthetic and moral argument of the symphony.

The weakest part of the book is a blow-by-blow account of the symphony's music using as li
Scott Martin
(Audiobook). An interesting perspective on what most would call the greatest piece of music ever written in mankind. While the focus is Beethoven's 9th Symphony, it is not a pure analysis/discussion of the symphony, but a smattering of analysis and discussions about the work, the composer, the time in history it was written and performed, and its impact on contemporaries of Beethoven. The work does jump around a bit, going from a bio sketch on Beethoven to a discussion of the musical details of ...more
Janice Fehlauer
A rather disappointing read. The concept of the book (focusing on a single year and the musical, cultural, and political events that defined that year) was interesting, but it lacked coherence and academic rigour. There were a few interesting Beethovenian insights (such as Beethoven's "universalizing of the intimate"). Many of the musical and cultural observations, however, were amateurish, and overall it read like a student term paper encumbered by clumsy and rambling sentences like this one:

The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824 by Harvey Sachs
Random House, 2010
200 pages
Non-fiction; History; Music
3/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: A look at the pivotal year in music of 1824 with the premiere of Beethoven's masterpiece, the Ninth Symphony. Additionally examinations of other Romantic artists of the time, a look at the symphony itself, and how this symphony influenced later musicians.

Thoughts: I wanted to read this because of the cover and because Beethoven is my favorite composer.
Wisteria Leigh
THE NINTH, [return]BEETHOVEN AND THE WORLD IN 1824[return]Harvey Sachs, Random House,2010, $26.00/C$32.00, 240pp, 978-1-4000-6077-1.[return][return]The Ninth, Beethoven and the World in 1824, by Harvey Sach reminded me of how much I love Beethoven. I have a Bachelor of Music degree and when I studied Music History in college and sat through music theory and style classes, Beethoven was and still is one of my favorite composers. [return][return]The premier of Beethoven s Ninth Symphony in 1824 wa ...more
Maho Fujiwara
The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824 is a must-read book for musicians. The book revolves around the story of how Beethoven was inspired to write the Ninth Symphony which is considered to be one of the most unique, and outstanding symphonies of all time. As a Beethoven lover, reading about his musical environment that played a role in creating the music, is very rewarding. In this book, it isn't just about learning about who Beethoven really was, and his disadvantage of not being able to h ...more
May 14, 2012 Kevin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
Parts of this book were exactly what I expected and was hoping for (the moments of Beethoven's life leading to the Ninth; a brief analyses of the score; some information on the world in 1825), but other portions, specifically around Beethoven's contemporaries in all areas of art, were unexpected and not entirely welcome.

Part one and three focus on the symphony and Beethoven. There are some interesting comments on Beethoven's life and some interesting ideas on different parts of the symphony.

Feb 17, 2013 Billy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"To write the Life of him who excelled all mankind in writing the lives of others, and who, whether we consider his extraordinary endowments, or his various works, has been equalled by few in any age, is an arduous, and may be reckoned in me a presumptuous task." from The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

Of course, Boswell wouldn't let something like presumption prevent him from writing (and writing and writing) Samuel Johnson's biography. And so Harvey Sachs sets to task to provide a multifaceted p
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Be embraced, ye millions!’

On the 7th of May 1824, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, op 125 (the Ninth) was performed for the first time in Vienna. The choral finale to the symphony – the singing of some of the words of Friedrich Schiller’s ode ‘An die Freude’ – is a paean to the ideal of universal brotherhood.

In this book: part history, part biography, and part personal memoir, Harvey Sachs has focussed on the events of the year 1824. This provides some context for the world in which the s
Bill M
Feb 08, 2014 Bill M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
I found the connection between the history and music of Beethoven's time quite interesting. However, at times, the flow of the book seemed fragmented. And some of the text was painful, as in this passage from near the end of the third section of the book: "The rawness, hollowness, fragmentariness of the Ninth's opening bars, their grim-gray colors, their amoral brutality or brutal amorality,..." Given the chance, I would probably have given 2.5 stars.
William Schram
I like Beethoven, and I love his Ninth Symphony. This book is a lot of speculation and I didn't particularly like it. I skimmed through it and although it does contain a translation of what they say from German to English it wasn't enough to save it for me.
Jun 11, 2014 Bradford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An engagingly personal journey into the world of Beethoven, Sachs tackles the seemingly impossible task of writing about music with grace and passion and scholarship--and sticks the landing.
Jun 18, 2015 Cindy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
Excellent account of the writing of the 9th but I was looking for even more information than the book covered so I was slightly disappointed. But overall it was informative and fascinating.
Decent read. Author tended to meander a little bit through his subjects and he got a little bogged down in all the talk about royalty and patronage in 1824, but other than that, it worked.

If you've never heard this piece in its entirety (shame on you), you might want to listen to it as you read the composers description of the work in the back half. A large portion of this work is permanently embeded in my brain, and even I had to stop and think about which sections he was referring to.

Kari Twitchell
Kind of disappointing. Maybe I was expecting something different but I didn't get very much out of this book.
Feb 06, 2015 Monica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ninth makes me feel like beethoven' s simpleton puppet- feel! so I feels.. The academic and historical exploration was inspiring. And this guy LOVES everything about this work, it's contagious.
Dec 10, 2010 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listened to audio version.

The author puts Beethoven's 9th Symphony into historical and cultural perspective. I listened to audio, but found that I wanted to read the actual book. The audio was very well read, but the content of the book is more conducive to slower reading than a listen in the car can provide. I will revisit this title with the book.

Wish the audio would have taken the book one step further and included musical examples, which are mentioned frequently. A missed opportunity for enh
Perhaps it's the humanist in me, but I didn't think the second part was necessary. I might go back later and read it again when I'm in a different mindset, but I was reading this more for the Beethoven and less for the 1824. The first, third and fourth movement (which also included a lot of comparative cultural history but was more interesting) were far more interesting and flowed together.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that I occasionally skip the second movement of the symp
Jul 06, 2010 Libkat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author mentions that this book is part biography and part history and part memoir. The book is cataloged in the fine arts area with the other composers. It is hard to get a handle where the book really fits,but I loved every minute of it! When the author gets to the section on the ninth symphony he gives a blow by blow discription of what is going on in each of the four sections. I've always loved this symphony but now I really understand what Beethoven was trying to say.

The book is well wo
Feb 10, 2013 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I did like the beginning. It made me consider that musicians can express their views on life and humanity through their artistic media, just as I've seen poets and playwrights and painters do through theirs. I also liked learning about the Europe of 1824 from the vantage points of different people.

But the 3rd section was an attempt to describe in words every detail of the entire symphony, which I think defeats the whole purpose of music if you try to replace it with words. And I found the postlu
Margaret Sankey
Musical history, setting Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, with its message of Joy and Brotherhood, in its context of Romantics channeling crushed revolution, frustrated idealism and refutation of resurgent absolutist governments. And, it reminded me of criticism of the true believers from August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben--"And they chatter, leaf through gazettes, search/and finally come to the conclusion/Another little piece of apple pie!"
Feb 25, 2011 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the summary of the political events going on at the time Beethoven wrote the Ninth. For a full experience, I listened to the symphony as I read. My favorite line to the "Ode to Joy" part of the music is "Alle Menschen werden Bruder." Such a wonderful line! I gained good insights on the music from the book. I hadn't thought of Romanticism as revolutionary until the book made the point. For me, a good read.
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