The Universal Composer
By Edmund Morris
(Eminent Lives, Hardcover, 9780060759742, 256pp.)
Publication Date: October 1, 2005
List Price: $25.99*
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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a genius so universal that his popularity, extraordinary even during his lifetime, has never ceased to grow. It now encircles the globe: Beethoven's most famous works are as beloved in Beijing as they are in Boston.
Edmund Morris, the author of three bestselling presidential biographies and a lifelong devotee of Beethoven, brings the great composer to life as a man of astonishing complexity and overpowering intelligence. A gigantic, compulsively creative personality unable to tolerate constraints, he was not so much a social rebel as an astute manipulator of the most powerful and privileged aristocrats in Germany and Austria, at a time when their world was threatened by the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.
But Beethoven's achievement rests in his immortal music. Struggling against progressive, incurable deafness (which he desperately tried to keep secret), he nonetheless produced towering masterpieces, such as his iconic Fifth and Ninth symphonies. With sensitivity and insight, Edmund Morris illuminates Beethoven's life, including his interactions with the women he privately lusted for but held at bay, and his work, whose grandeur and beauty were conceived "on the other side of silence."
Edmund Morris is the author of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award), Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, and Theodore Rex (Los Angeles Times Book Prize). A pianist and private scholar of music, he has been studying Beethoven for a half century.