Friday, June 30, 2017

Beethoven: The Music and the Life, by Lewis Lockwood

This is the best combination biography and music analysis book about Beethoven that I've yet read. No surprise, really, as Dr. Lockwood is the greatest living Beethoven scholar. His writing style is lucid and engaging, without making me scramble to the dictionary all the time with obtuse verbiage. So it's also no surprise that this book was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in the biography category (I don't know what beat it out for the award, but this book certainly could have won).

Particularly astute are his formal analyses - which are harrowing in Beethoven, with his myriad liberties taken with sonata and rondo processes - which shed light and bring focus to the dark and fuzzy world of form in Beethoven's music. A lot that will be of practical use to me as a composer as well.

So, if you haven't read this yet, and you're a Beethoven aficionado, by all means read it!


With all of this Beethoven reading, I'm preparing myself for a critical listening marathon of his music, and I've thought of some neat strategies for that. I have the Complete String Quartets, which are a cinch to follow, but getting all of the full scores for the symphonies would be expensive, and to be totally honest, I suck at score reading (Like I often say, I read music much better than 90% of guitarists, which is still admitting that I'm not very good at it). So, in a flash of intuition, I decided to get the Liszt piano transcriptions of Beethoven's symphonies, which come in two volumes by Kalmus.

But wait, there's more. A pianist named Cyprien Katsaris has actually recorded them all, so I got that too.

I also got the Brendel recordings of the complete piano sonatas, and the sheet music those are available in two volumes as well.

I've put this off for many years, because I didn't think I was ready until now. Well, having composed two sonatas for solo guitar, and one for guitar duo (With a third solo sonata in progress), I think I'm ready.