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.