on 24 September 2005
Mike Venezia's Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers series tends to focus on biographies rather than music appreciation because unlike his companion series on the World's Greatest Artists you cannot include a sonata the way you can a reproduction of a painting. However, for Ludwig Van Beethoven the author/illustrator makes an exception. This volume begins with an appreciation for how Beethoven changed the sound of music (no more party music). Within that context Venezia provides the expected biography, complete with historic ethics and paintings as well as those funny cartoons; just think Beethoven as the Liberace (if you are over 50) or Elton John (if you are under 50) of his day. There is also a photograph of his eyeglasses and metal ear trumpets. However, Venezia only mentions a handful of specific works by Beethoven, touching on how the 3rd symphony represented Napoleon, the four-note theme of the 5th Symphony, and going into some depth on the 6th Pastoral Symphony (but no mention of the glorious 9th Symphony or his other masterworks). Still, I appreciate the attempt to get more into Beethoven's music than he has done in other volumes of this series, which covers not only the great classic composers like Handel and Mozart, but also contemporary composers from Aaron Copland and George Gerswhin to Duke Ellington and the Beatles. As always, the recommendation is for young readers to have listened to some of Beethoven's masterpieces before, during and after reading this engaging juvenile biography and mini-music appreciation lesson.