Beethovens Letters (Dover Books on Music)


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AS REVEALED IN HIS OWN WORDS

The letters of Beethoven are the principal nonmusical expression of his personality in its relationship with the world of his time. In what he called the "dry letters of the alphabet," Beethoven depicted his fears, his loves, and his friendly relations: his fears of deafness and of corrupted texts by pirating printers; his loves, Bettina Brentano and Giulietta Guicciardi; and his friendly relations with Baron Zmeskall, Frau Nannette Streicher, and the music publishers Steiner and Company.


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He praises the poetry of Goethe and Schiller but condemns Goethe for his obeisance toward royalty. He solicits help during his perpetual trouble with his health and with his servants. He castigates publishers, sets prices for his works, and calculates letters of dedication.


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He expresses his love for his nephew, Carl, but documents the trouble that Carl was causing him by taking up his precious time. And although Beethoven liked to decorate the letters with musical openings and closings and an occasional song to the receiver, he increasingly signed his letters, "In haste. Explanatory notes comment upon works, on persons mentioned, and on the puns of which Beethoven was fond.

George Grove, the founding editor of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, interweaves fascinating background information on the composer's historical era with quotations, letters, and anecdotes. He examines the nine symphonies in chronological order, movement by movement, illustrating his points with numerous excerpts — more than in all.

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In addition to emphasizing the uniqueness of Beethoven's music and its iconoclastic renunciation of established musical theory, Grove comments at length on the relation of the symphonies to the minor works, events in the composer's personal life, the conditions under which he worked, and other fascinating details. Examples of Beethoven's correspondence include several letters to the Countess Theresa and the famous letter to his brothers Carl and Johann.

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