Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Ninth

The Ninth: Beethoven and the World in 1824 by Harvey Sachs
Random House, 2010
200 pages
Non-fiction; History; Music
3/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: A look at the pivotal year in music of 1824 with the premiere of Beethoven's masterpiece, the Ninth Symphony.  Additionally examinations of other Romantic artists of the time, a look at the symphony itself, and how this symphony influenced later musicians.

Thoughts: I wanted to read this because of the cover and because Beethoven is my favorite composer.  I'm a violist and I've been lucky enough to play the First, the Fifth, and the Sixth-I wish I could have the opportunity to play more.  I really liked the first section which explored Beethoven writing the symphony and then arranging for its premiere in Vienna.  This was a good historical narrative.

Then it went to the second part with other artists such as Lord Byron and Alexander Pushkin; they may or may not have been motivated in similar ways to Beethoven and they may or may not have heard his music.  Any way, it was boring.  The third section was also boring with long descriptions of his impressions of the symphony but not in a technical way, which I think I would have appreciated more. 

I also liked the fourth section because of the adulation Hector Berlioz had for Beethoven.  Berlioz is my second favorite composer and he wrote my favorite piece Symphonie fantastique. I guess I know why I like Berlioz so much now; he calls back to Beethoven in some ways while also being totally original and himself.

Overall: Boring and while technically short, seemed much longer.  While I've heard the Ninth, I definitely want to listen to it again.

Cover: I still love the cover; it attracted me to the book.

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow, Beethoven is my favourite composer too! And you play the viola? Amazing!

    Too bad the book is boring. I think many interesting things could be said about his 9th symphony. I dearly hope that I will get to sing Ode to Joy with my choir one day. We've done all choir pieces by Mozart, but very few by Beethoven.

    I recommend the movie Copying Beethoven. It's far-fetched story-wise, but there are some absolutely wonderful descriptions of music to be heard. The 9th symphony is at the core of the movie.


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