144 pages, Thames & Hudson, ISBN-13: 978-0500300060
I have been a Beethoven aficionado since age 15 when my parents bought me an audio cassette box-set featuring all of his symphonies. Since then I have updated them – first to CD and then to my iPod – and have done my damndest to collect all of his music and to learn all that I could about dear old Ludwig van. This book, Beethoven: The Composer as Hero by Philippe Autexier isn’t bad at all, but at 144 pages it’s about as brief as brief can be. It is well-written, with Beethoven’s life chronicled from birth to deafness to death and everything else in-between. And there is a morsel or two about Beethoven that you may not get from grander, more scholarly works, such as the little tidbit that once when Ludwig van was walking in the woods with Ferdinand Ries (a composer, friend, pupil and secretary to Beethoven) and humming a tune out loud…that turned out to be the Third Movement to his Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57, known better as the Appassionata. But this isn’t why you buy a book such as this, for every page has several photographs, most of them in color, and it is printed on some damn fine paper, to boot; it is rather nice having color portraits of the people in Beethoven’s life, such as his grandfather and other members of his family, or Muzio Clementi, Joseph Haydn, Rodolphe Kreutzer and Antonio Salieri, as well as many of his benefactors and other personal friends (not to mention street scenes, scenes of Beethoven playing the piano as a mesmerized audience looks on, scenes from Fidelio, etc.). Not a bad little book at all; just more of a primer on the great man than a proper biography.