A LABOUR OF LOVE
John Suchet's 'The Treasures of Beethoven',
read by HOWARD SMITH
The book is lavish, it requires a small handcart to wheel to your coffee table where it sits like some restored, dark, arcane artifact; inviting houseguests and quiescent family members to explore its hidden, unimagined revelations. Suchet's 'magnus opus' has 64 pages, hardback plus slipcase, with a CD and thirty removable facsimile documents; ideally read by candlelight.
Clearly a labour of love and the product of lengthy, detailed research, one is forced to admit that though Ludwig of Bonn has been an endlessly fascinating subject for numerous authors, historians, arts theoreticians and musicologists; nothing quite like 'The Treasures' preexists Suchet's publication.
To comment in detail on its text would entail needless repetition of unending facts about the supposedly fractious, unkempt, nettlesome, paradoxically misanthropic, creative colossus.
However a number of special features call for special mention.
First and foremost Suchet begins with the unequivocal assertion; 'Ludwig van Beethoven is the greatest composer who ever lived'. His introduction concludes -- 'Beethoven the man is very different from Beethoven the legend, and the legend is a myth. It is Beethoven the man I have tried to bring you in the pages that follow.'
Among the 'treasures' are faultlessly reproduced modern and historic photos and artworks -- images of people and places associated with Beethoven's life and times.
Key memorabilia; letters and documents are included in artificially distressed envelopes and concealed pockets; among them Beethoven's own copy of his baptism certificate, publishers' letters, historic signed contracts, the 'Heilingstadt Testament' and extracts from Beethoven's original manuscripts.
In addition the sixty minute CD with representative musical excerpts features Charles Mackerras, Yehudi and Jeremy Menuhin, Riccardo Muti, Simon Rattle, Carlo Maria Giulini, and Steven Kovacevich -- all from EMI recordings.
This magnificent tome is an unparalleled summation of exhaustive Beethoven studies, writings, illustrations and memorabilia from one of today's greatest authorities on Western music's Olympians -- Beethoven and Mozart.
Noted television journalist, Suchet is previously author of The Last Master, a three-part fictional Beethoven biography published by Little, Brown and Company (see below) and his personal website -- www.madaboutbeethoven.com -- explains his obsession with LvB still more fully.
Here we learn that in researching Beethoven's life Suchet visited every place that Beethoven knew and is still there to be seen today.
The trilogy is as follows: Volume 1 -- 'Passion and Anger' begins before Beethoven's birth and ends with the famous Heilingstadt Testament of 1802. Volume 2 -- 'Passion and Pain' depicts the composer at the height of his powers -- all the time beset by his deafness, the greatest tragedy of his life. Finally, in Volume 3 -- 'Passion and Glory', the reader witnesses the great dramas of the composer's last years.
'The Treasures', in marked contrast, is a mega-repository of Beethoven lore and learning to mull over and return to again and again.
Its weighty appeal is positively irresistible.
Copyright © 11 September 2008 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand
The Treasures of Beethoven
Andre Deutsch, 2008
64 pages, hardback + slipcase
Includes a CD and 30 removable facsimile documents