Beethoven by John Suchet

Review published on June 29, 2017.

John Suchet has written an informed, interesting and very readable account of the life of Beethoven. He succeeds in his aim to “reach the music through the man rather than the man through the music” by providing many anecdotes showing us Beethoven’s character and feelings. Some of these are speculations as many of the accounts of events in his life were from decades after his death but John Suchet gives a convincing picture of the man. There is plenty about Beethoven’s irascible temperament, his unpredictability and sudden rages, but Suchet sympathetically explores possible causes such as the agony he must have suffered when he knew he was going deaf and his unhappy childhood with an alcoholic father.

I feel that having a better understanding of what was happening in Beethoven’s life while he was composing particular pieces gives more poignancy and appreciation to the music. As well as doing this, Suchet also analyses two moving documents written by Beethoven – the Heiligenstadt Testament where he comes to terms with his deafness and the love letter to his “Immortal Beloved” where Suchet addresses the question of her identity.

It is a fascinating account showing the human side of a difficult and complex genius and will certainly add to my appreciation and understanding of his music.

Berwyn Peet 5/2

Beethoven by John Suchet
Elliott & Thompson 9781783963249 pbk May 2017

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