Beethoven's Symphonies

An Artistic Vision

Lewis Lockwood (Author, Harvard University)

Overview | Formats

“[Beethoven’s] music never grows old— and, enjoyed alongside Mr. Lockwood’s expert commentary, it sparkles with fresh magic.”—Wall Street Journal

More than any other composer, Beethoven left to posterity a vast body of material that documents the early stages of almost everything he wrote. From this trove of sketchbooks, Lewis Lockwood draws us into the composer’s mind, unveiling a creative process of astonishing scope and originality.

For musicians and nonmusicians alike, Beethoven’s symphonies stand at the summit of artistic achievement, loved today as they were two hundred years ago for their emotional cogency, variety, and unprecedented individuality. Beethoven labored to complete nine of them over his lifetime—a quarter of Mozart’s output and a tenth of Haydn’s—yet no musical works are more iconic, more indelibly stamped on the memory of anyone who has heard them. They are the products of an imagination that drove the composer to build out of the highest musical traditions of the past something startlingly new.

Lockwood brings to bear a long career of studying the surviving sources that yield insight into Beethoven’s creative work, including concept sketches for symphonies that were never finished. From these, Lockwood offers fascinating revelations into the historical and biographical circumstances in which the symphonies were composed. In this compelling story of Beethoven’s singular ambition, Lockwood introduces readers to the symphonies as individual artworks, broadly tracing their genesis against the backdrop of political upheavals, concert life, and their relationship to his major works in other genres. From the first symphonies, written during his emerging deafness, to the monumental Ninth, Lockwood brings to life Beethoven’s lifelong passion to compose works of unsurpassed beauty.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • February 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-393-35385-3
  • 5.6 × 8.3 in / 304 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverBeethoven's Symphonies: An Artistic Vision


Endorsements & Reviews

“Lewis Lockwood has served as an admirably articulate guide to the symphonies. . . . [H]is book will surely inspire new interest in Beethoven’s durable masterpieces.” — New York Review of Books

“No one brings Beethoven’s music to life as vividly as Lewis Lockwood. A towering achievement.” — Alan Gilbert, music director, New York Philharmonic

“Lockwood has given music lovers a great gift. By looking at historical context—who listened to Beethoven, what he read—and how the symphonies were planned, the reader gets a unique view of the creative process of one of our greatest musical minds.” — Yo-Yo Ma

“This remarkable book is much more than a guide to Beethoven’s symphonies. By granting us access to the composer’s workshop, Lockwood reveals a faltering human being whose unfaltering artistic resolution remains one of the great stories of the human spirit.” — Scott Burnham, Scheide Professor of Music History, Princeton University

“Lockwood elegantly imparts an enormous amount of fascinating detail, placing each symphony in the context of Beethoven’s work in other genres and concert activity. What a pleasure to read!” — Emanuel Ax, pianist

“The preeminent Beethoven scholar traces the composer’s lifelong engagement with the symphony, illuminates afresh the familiar Nine, and reminds us why these monuments claim listeners’ attention today as much as they did two hundred years ago. A masterful achievement.” — R. Larry Todd, arts & sciences professor, Duke University

“This book contains a lifetime of love and admiration for the bedrock of classical music: Beethoven’s symphonies. Lockwood’s balanced approach and deep knowledge make for a majestic voyage of discovery through these familiar masterworks.” — David Robertson, music director, St. Louis Symphony

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