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The Last Master #1-3

The Last Master : The Trilogy

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3 volume set in slipcase.
True Beethoven fans know that Beethoven is the greatest composer of all time, but in recent years Mozart's followers have grabbed most of the good tunes. Beethoven is admired but he is lost in our affection. John Suchet both admires Beethoven and likes him, and his three-volume fictional biography, THE LAST MASTER is a carefully researched labour of love. Not a street name or coffee-house in Vienna has gone unchecked. There are many studies of Beethoven and his music, but fewer biographies. His work is complex, and his letters are not immediately revealing in the way that Mozart's are. John Suchet makes his aims clear: within the framework of the historical evidence, he allows himself to imagine episodes which could have happened. Anything which turned out to be impossible has been rewritten until it met this criterion. The result is an awesomely impressive feat of scholarship as well as a compelling read.

1504 pages, Paperback

First published November 2, 2000

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About the author

John Suchet

15 books19 followers
John Suchet presents Classic FM's flagship morning programme. His informative style of presentation, coupled with a deep knowledge of classical music, has won a wide spectrum of new listeners to the station. Before turning to classical music, John was one of the UK's best known television newscasters, regularly presenting ITN's flagship News at Ten, as well as all other bulletins, over a period of nearly 20 years. John has been honoured for both roles. He is the author of several bestselling composer biographies, including Beethoven: The Man Revealed.

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Displaying 1 - 2 of 2 reviews
Profile Image for TBV (on hiatus).
308 reviews75 followers
July 4, 2019
Dear Curmudgeon
Based on extensive research, this charming novel is Part 1 of a trilogy which celebrates the life of composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827).

In his non-fiction book Beethoven: The Man Revealed author John Suchet presented to us the man Beethoven, but of course also the composer Beethoven and his music as these are inseperable. With this trilogy Mr Suchet amplifies what he said in his non-fiction work, and he imagines Beethoven's life in more detail. His love for Beethoven is apparent, and it is evident that time, effort and love went into the writing of these novels.

The toddler Ludwig adores his grandfather the Kapellmeister, also named Ludwig van Beethoven, and is devastated when the old man dies. Unfortunately little Ludwig's relationship with his father and his siblings is not all that great, and neither does it improve as he grows up. From an early age he feels isolated**. The world that he loves is music and nature. He loves the Drachenfels and the myths attached to it.

What I particularly liked is that Ludwig's life is presented against a backdrop of events that took place at that time, such as:
A fire at the Elector's Palace
The overflowing of the Rhine
The political situation in Europe - the Revolution in France, problems faced by the Hapsburgs, the Napoleonic wars, etc.

Of course all the musical events are there, as are the other composers (notably Mozart and Haydn) and musicians of that time. Ludwig constantly plays music and composes, so of course the reader also learns what he was doing when and where as far as his music was concerned, and his passion and frustrations are expressed. Though he might have felt some isolation, he did in fact have friends and he socialised with his colleagues and patrons.

I also enjoyed reading the Postscript. One of the things he mentions is this:
"On my wall I have a map of the city dated 1827, the year in which Beethoven died, published by Artaria, his first publisher in Vienna, with all the main streets of the city named. Standing in front of it with today's map, the similarities are remarkable, by virtue of the fact that when the Bastion - the massive city wall built round Vienna to defend it from the Turks - was finally dismantled in the 1850s, it was replaced almost exactly by the Ringstrasse, still the main orbital road round Vienna.

Many of the streets and buildings within the Bastion/Ringstrasse remain as they did two centuries ago."

"Normal, boisterous, playful children. Why could Ludwig not be like them? Even when he was with his grandfather, which was most of the time, he was serious. Music. That was all they talked about. Not normal childish subjects. Just music." (p24)

"He recognised from a very early age that he was a being apart. In the simplest terms, no boy of his age in the whole of Bonn could play the piano as he did. That gift alone might have brought admiration. Instead, given his other failings, it brought only loneliness." (p45)
183 reviews
June 30, 2016
Really awful. Kept with it because I suspect Beethoven was actually a genius. The chronicle of his life is possibly the most contrived, awkward body of prose I have ever read. When Beethoven is playing or composing - I am totally engaged. I have no musical background but I am close to understanding how a concerto or sonata might have transported others. The writer understands music. He has researched his subject. There is an insurmountable amount of setting, characters and dubious family history. Take a piece of music - show us the construction and the variation - embed in the biography - great book.
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