In times of anxiety, we turn to the transcendental experience of great art for inspiration and solace. Yet the peculiarities of the current crisis have rendered this practically impossible. Theaters have closed, galleries have been mothballed, and hundreds of the concerts planned to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven have been canceled. Fortunately, we still have access to some of the most celebrated recordings as well as new books on the composer, such as this scholarly yet readable offering from Laura Tunbridge.
The literature on Beethoven is rich. Not only is he one of the greatest—many would argue the greatest—composers in the Western canon, his earned status as the “original” romantic, revolutionary artist has ensured him a small army of biographers. Wishing to stand out from the ranks, Tunbridge, a professor of music at Oxford University, offers a different approach: a portrait of the composer, his music, and his time through nine of his compositions.