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,
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."