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A Life in Nine Pieces

Laura Tunbridge

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A major new biography published for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, offering a fresh, human portrayal
“Illuminating. . . . Tunbridge’s pithy A Life in Nine Pieces is different and welcome: a biography presented through the focus of nine different compositions.”—Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian

“Rewarding. . . . A lot of information is packed into her musical portraits.”—Richard Fairman, Financial Times

The iconic image of Beethoven is of him as a lone genius: hair wild, fists clenched, and brow furrowed. Beethoven may well have shaped the music of the future, but he was also a product of his time, influenced by the people, politics, and culture around him. Oxford scholar Laura Tunbridge offers an alternative history of Beethoven’s career, placing his music in contexts that shed light on why particular pieces are valued more than others, and what this tells us about his larger-than-life reputation. Each chapter focuses on a period of his life, a piece of music, and a revealing theme, from family to friends, from heroism to liberty. We discover, along the way, Beethoven’s unusual marketing strategies, his ambitious concert programming, and how specific performers and instruments influenced his works. This book offers new ways to understand Beethoven and why his music continues to be valued today.

Laura Tunbridge is professor of music at the University of Oxford.

“Laura Tunbridge pursues her subject with consistently perceptive critical acumen.”—Kenneth Stilwell, Nineteenth-Century Music Review

“A concise, subtly revealing survey, [that] complements [Beethoven’s] protean image by emphasizing the many-sidedness of the composer’s spirit.”—Alex Ross, New Yorker

“Illuminating . . . Tunbridge’s pithy A Life in Nine Pieces is different and welcome: a biography presented through the focus of nine different compositions, each casting light on aspects of Beethoven’s life, character and, given equal and readily comprehensible attention, the music.”—Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian

“Focusing on nine pivotal works, this study, equal parts musicological and biographical, complicates the simplistic portrait of Beethoven as an isolated, single-minded genius.”—New Yorker

“Rewarding . . . a lot of information is packed into her musical portraits.”—Richard Fairman, Financial Times

“Over the years, scores of Beethoven biographies have been written, some of which have fostered a number of myths about him. Tunbridge’s impeccably researched, elegantly written volume sets the record straight. . . . Music students and aficionados alike will appreciate this engaging and accessible portrait of the composer.”—Library Journal

“One could hardly expect something new and distinctive, no matter the vastness of the output, on such a venerable subject, yet here it is! . . . Tunbridge's writing is vivid, so evocative of time and place as to be almost cinematic. She utilizes source material both familiar and unfamiliar to draw some conclusions not heard before, and these are convincing. . . . The present volume, ingenious and somehow inevitable (rather like a Beethoven piece), is for everyone who cares about Beethoven's music. . . . . Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.”—B. J. Murray, Choice

“Elegantly-inquiring . . . Tunbridge’s writing has a richness which makes this book much more than an extended program note.”—Julian Glover, Evening Standard

“Intelligent throughout”—Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution

“[It’s] a book of great value, because it enlivens Beethoven through small details, human details.”—Conlan Salgado, Sun News Tucson

“A book that will be enjoyed by anyone interested in Beethoven’s life and works.”—Tim Bouverie, Air Mail 

“We are doubly blessed that Beethoven should have led such an extraordinary life. Laura has combined the two—the genius of his music and the richness of his experiences—to shine a revealing light on our greatest composer.”—John Humphrys, broadcaster

“In a year when everyone's looking for a new take on Beethoven, Laura Tunbridge has found nine. It makes great sense to look at the composer not thematically but in selected fragments, taking us nine small steps closer to his elusive totality. Fresh and engaging.”—Norman Lebrecht, author of Genius and Anxiety

“Tunbridge has come up with the seemingly impossible: a new way of approaching Beethoven's life and music…and in every chapter a superb—and accessible to non-musicians—analysis of the music…. [P]rofoundly original and hugely readable.”—John Suchet, author Beethoven: The Man Revealed

“Remarkable…. [Tunbridge] captures the essence of his genius and character. I'll always want to keep it in easy reach.”—Julia Boyd, author of Travellers in the Third Reich

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Titles 2021
ISBN: 9780300264623
Publication Date: August 16, 2022
288 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
25 b/w illus.

Sales Restrictions: For sale in the United States, its dependencies, and the Philippines only