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Book Review

Volume 12 • Number 2

Fall 2005

 

 

Imagining Beethoven

 

by David B. Levy

Maynard Solomon. Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003. xi, 327pp.

Maynard Solomon remains one of our most erudite and well-read writers on Beethoven. The subtitle of this book, however, puts things out of order. "Imagination" should most decidedly be placed before "Music" and "Thought," for it is "Imagination" that dominates the landscape of the prologue and twelve essays that comprise Late Beethoven. If you are searching for closely detailed analytical studies of Beethoven's late works, then this is not the book for you. What Solomon instead presents is a compilation of new essays and revised versions of older ones, each of which touches on some aspect of Beethoven's creative life between 1812 and his death in 1827. The touchstone for many of the essays is Beethoven's Tagebuch of 1812–18, a resource whose importance
Solomon has himself explored elsewhere.1 The "late" in its title, therefore, is used in much the same way one speaks of the "long" eighteenth century. At its best, this book offers fresh perspectives and insights into the influences that affected the composer's state of mind toward the end of his life. At its worst, it is an exercise in pointless speculation.

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