Share our background reading about Beethoven
To get you into the mood for listening to our performances of the Beethoven string quartets cycle our cellist Rolf Gjelsten has developed a reading list so you can share some insights into the life and times of this extraordinary musician. The list that follows can be sourced from local book stores, libraries, or on-line at Amazon.
The Beethoven Quartets by Joseph Kerman (*****)
W.W. Norton and Co. Inc., 1979
Our Beethoven String Quartet ‘bible’ for theoretical analysis, emotional revelations and for the understanding of the mind of one of the greatest artist geniuses in any art form. His descriptions on each quartet read like character evaluations, revealing Beethoven’s trials as a composer as he works through different processes and emotional labyrinths in each piece. The systematic growth and maturity of Beethoven’s art through the quartets is eloquently and masterfully explained in a way that both the novice and the connoisseur can revel in!
The Beethoven Quartet Companion edited by Robert Winter and Robert Martin (****)
University of California Press, 1994
A more detailed and analytical account of the Quartets than Marliave’s (see below) Beethoven Quartets with many interesting essays on the history and stature of the quartet medium in Beethoven time. The notes on the individual quartets by our friend Michael Steinberg are excellent and on the whole this is a good introduction for the enthusiastic listener.
Beethoven, His Spiritual Development by J.W.N. Sullivan (****)
Vintage Books, 1927
A moving testament to the greatness of Beethoven’s music. He philosophises about the meaning of the music in relation to the purpose of our existence and the nature of our humanity. However convoluted and formal his language is, it’s well worth wading through for gems of inspiration and insight.
Ludwig van Beethoven by John Suchet (a fictional biography in 3 volumes) (****)
Warner Books, 1996
A gripping novel about Beethoven’s life weaving known facts together with ideas from Suchet’s lively imagination. The author states that “nothing in this book could not have happened”.
Beethoven’s Quartets by Joseph De Marliave (***)
An excellent easy to read introduction to the Quartets reading like program notes but with Marliave’s obvious passion for the music expressed in his descriptions.