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Review

Volume 10 • Number 1

Spring 2003


 

 

Napoleon Hero

by Raymond Knapp

Thomas Sipe. Beethoven: Eroica Symphony. Cambridge Music Handbooks. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. xi, 146pp.

The Cambridge Music Handbooks constitute a somewhat peculiar enterprise. The list is eclectic, but only modestly so, including among its sixty or so titles a fairly predictable selection of canonic "masterworks," a (so far) token specimen of popular music, and a smattering of other groupings from larger bodies of work where criteria for selection are less than obvious (e.g., a series of "Early-Music" titles, Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, Haydn's String Quartets and Symphonies, Mozart's Piano Concertos, and Vivaldi's Violin Concertos). Some works chosen for coverage are on a very large scale, others relatively small. Some have been much written about, others hardly at all. Some are widely acknowledged to be historically important; others remain relatively obscure. Some of the recruited authors are established scholars; many are relative newcomers. As the series' overall title indicates, all contributions are of modest length and aim in particular to be useful (although precisely to whom they are to be useful is left somewhat vague). Considering the diversity of creatures being ushered through this rather restrictive gate—one thinks of Noah's Ark, given the tenuous position of classical music in today's marketplace, but in miniature, with all animals reduced to the same modest dimensions—it is perhaps surprising how many of the books are, indeed, quite useful, and to a wide spectrum of readers. Much less surprising, Beethoven is the best-represented composer within the resultant menagerie. At the time of Thomas Sipe's Beethoven: Eroica Symphony (1998)—which, in fact, ranks among the more

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