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