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Book Review

Volume 12 • Number 2

Fall 2005

 

 

Beethoven and the Voices of Authority

 

by Michael C. Tusa

Stephen Rumph. Beethoven after Napoleon: Political Romanticism in the Late Works. California Studies in 19th-Century Music, 14. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004. ix, 295pp.

How does one account for the qualities of Beethoven's later music that for many listeners and critics set it apart from his earlier output? Following by only a year Maynard Solomon's attempt to answer this question by reference to the ageing composer's explorations of religious issues, esoteric philosophy and Romantic imagery,1 Stephen Rumph's Beethoven after Napoleon: Political Romanticism in the Late Works offers a political answer based on a hermeneutic approach to the works. The result is an important and provocative addition to the growing body of criticism that seeks to understand Beethoven's output within the broader cultural and intellectual currents of his day; it is also a controversial one that challenges a number of cherished ideas about the composer's political affiliations.

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