The Man Revealedby John Suchet
“Suchet’s explanations of Beethoven’s music sing to us almost as if we could hear it. . . . [A] deeply moving, outstanding biography.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Beethoven scholar and classical radio host John Suchet has had a lifelong interest in the man and his music. Here, Suchet illuminates the composer’s difficult childhood, his struggle to maintain friendships and romances, his ungovernable temper, his obsessive efforts to control his nephew’s life, and the excruciating decline of his hearing. This absorbing narrative provides a comprehensive account of a momentous life, as it takes the reader on a journey from the composer’s birth in Bonn to his death in Vienna. Chronicling the landmark events in Beethoven’s career—his competitive encounters with Mozart to the circumstances surrounding the creation of the well-known Für Elise and Moonlight Sonata—this book enhances understanding of the composer’s character, inspiring a deeper appreciation for his work. Beethoven scholarship is constantly evolving, and Suchet draws on the latest research, using rare source material, some of which has never before been published in English.
“A big, bold biography.” —Library Journal
“Breathtaking . . . Suchet has turned his vast knowledge, imagination and passion [into] . . . a memorable life that abounds with the kind of details often overlooked by researchers focused only on verifiable facts. . . . [Suchet’s] intuitive understanding of human nature, social history, and psychological insight . . . unwraps Beethoven’s life as a lively connected narrative, energized on every page.” —Bookreporter
“Suchet’s conversational approach allows him to present the known details of Beethoven’s life while speculating effectively on the unknown. . . . A colloquial, picaresque biography.” —Shelf Awareness
“I have loved and performed Beethoven since I was very young and have read a good deal about the life and times of this giant among composers, but John Suchet’s infectious enthusiasm and fascination, probing the details behind every step of his life, and turning sensitive sleuth when the facts are less clear, opens new vistas and makes for a gripping and thought-provoking read.” —Howard Shelley, pianist and conductor
“John Suchet offers us a fascinating and touchingly human insight into a great figure who has consumed him for decades. By exercising a genuine authority in identifying how Beethoven, the man, manifests himself in our appreciation of the music, Suchet brings an incisive freshness to an extraordinary life.” —Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, principal of the Royal Academy of Music
“Beethoven’s music continues to form one of the cornerstones of the concert repertoire some 200 years after it was written, and knowing the context in which it was written can aid our understanding of the music. Although some aspects of his life, such as his deafness, and his great love for his only nephew, are well known, this book also includes many details that are less familiar. John Suchet writes with infectious enthusiasm, and his avoidance of technical detail makes this a biography that can be read and understood by anyone interested in the composer.” —Professor Barry Cooper, University of Manchester
Ludwig did more than teach piano to the Breuning children. He in effect grew up as part of the Breuning household, becoming almost a surrogate member of the family. . . . It was there, also, that he first became acquainted with German literature, especially poetry. It is beyond doubt that he will have been introduced to the works of the two emerging giants of German literature, Goethe and Schiller. He read Homer and Plutarch. He was trained too in social etiquette. He even went away on holiday with the family. Helene von Breuning clearly took him under her wing and made it her duty to fill in the gaps—academic and social—that an early exit from school and a singular devotion to music had caused.
His father Johann remained of low standing, and was little more than a figure of ridicule. . . . Ludwig was in effect the family breadwinner. Given his father’s alcoholism, Ludwig was also the de facto head of the household. This was before he was midway through his teens. The pressure he was under must have been enormous. He held a salaried position at court, which demanded serious work.
He was continuing instruction with Neefe. At home he was witnessing his father’s increasing alcoholism and his mother’s distress. This was made immeasurably worse by his mother’s obviously declining health. She was showing all the signs of having contracted the deadly disease of consumption (tuberculosis).
And yet he found time to compose.