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Volume 13 • Number 2

Fall 2006

 

Beethoven and His Others: Criticism, Difference, and the Composer's Many Voices


by Nicholas Mathew


Beethoven's Voice

"Even if there were no name on the title page, none other could be conjectured—it is Beethoven through and through!" Thus wrote Brahms upon seeing the rediscovered manuscript of Beethoven's early Funeral Cantata for Joseph II. Like many critics before and since, Brahms expressed absolute confidence in the singularity and power of Beethoven's musical voice—a voice that pervades each of the composer's works and all of his oeuvre. To Brahms, Beethoven was as unmistakable as "Beethoven"; hearing his voice was as reliable a test of authenticity as reading his signature. As Romain Rolland declared some years later: "Each work of Beethoven bears one name alone—Beethoven."

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