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Review

Volume 10 • Number 2

Fall 2003


 

 

The Dialectical Composer


by John Daverio (1954–2003)

Klaus Kropfinger. Beethoven. Kassel and Stuttgart: Bärenreiter and Metzler, 2001. 334pp.

"Because what is difficult is also beautiful, good, grand . . ." (denn was schwer ist, ist auch schön, gut, gross . . .) These words, quoted from Beethoven's letter of January 1817 to the publisher Sigmund Anton Steiner in reference to the Piano Sonata in A Major, op.101, make a fitting epigraph to Klaus Kropfinger's Beethoven—and in more ways than one. Quite apart from the quotation's obvious resonance with Beethoven's later piano music, it applies to Kropfinger's book, which, to quote again from Beethoven's letter, also "makes [one] sweat" (macht schwizen). Readers who are looking for a handy guide to Beethoven's life and works are advised to go elsewhere. Kropfinger's account is many things— a detailed report on the current status of Beethoven research, a penetrating critique of major issues in Beethoven scholarship, a sustained rumination on the possible ties between the composer's life and his creative output—but a "narrative travelogue," to use Kropfinger's phrase, it is not.

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