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Volume 11 • Number 2

Fall 2004


 

 

Who's Beethoven?

by Nicholas Marston

Barry Cooper. Beethoven. The Master Musicians. Series edited by Stanley Sadie.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. xvi, 410pp.

Lewis Lockwood. Beethoven: The Music and the Life. New York: W. W. Norton, 2003.
xix, 604pp.

It comes as no surprise that each of these recent major studies bears a dustjacket portrait of Beethoven. Cooper's gives us the 1820 Stieler portrait (the misprint "Steiler" on the end-flap is unfortunate); though the score of the Missa solemnis is all but omitted, the composer stares us almost full in the face, the eyes only slightly raised. On Lockwood's cover, the 1823 Waldmüller image looks out over our shoulder, contemplating we know not what. For Lockwood, this portrait captures something of Beethoven's "otherworldly, abstracted demeanor" (p.403) at this stage of his life. Alessandra Comini, on the other hand, describes Waldmüller's work as "not the picture of a hero. But it is certainly a picture of Beethoven." She notes Waldmüller's reputation for "photographic verisimilitude" along with a characteristic "plenitude of the detailed observations of his sitters . . . posited against a neutral but richly mottled background." By contrast, "all the elements dear to future mythmakers are present in Stieler's heroizing conception: genius inspired by inner voices in the presence of nature, with leonine hair writhing wildly in symbolic parallel to the seething turbulence of creativity."

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