Being a Research Professor of Music at Harvard University I'm sure makes Lewis Lockwood, the author of this book, well qualified to write with great authority about Beethoven. I'm sometimes concerned though that such academic attributes make for heavy reading, but the sleeve comments state that `no musical expertise is required' so I approached this book expecting an in-depth account of Beethoven and his often turbulent life, rather than a detailed note-by-note dissection of his works. I was pleased to find my expectations were met.
The book divides Beethoven's life into four sections:
The Early years - 1770 to 1792
The First Maturity - 1792 to 1802
The Second Maturity - 1802 - 1812
The Final Maturity - 1813 to 1827
Each section covers not only those works written during these periods but discusses too the social and political events which influenced the composer and his compositions. As well as covering the obvious issues like his struggle with deafness and failed love attempts, the book goes into great depth in such areas as the ninth symphony and the final string quartets.
There's also a couple of useful chapters, one is a chronology - approx 1 paragraph per year of Beethoven's life, the other is an index of his entire works ordered by Opus number including references to pages in the book which discuss those works.
I found this an absorbing book which is aimed perhaps at the reader who already has a reasonable knowledge of Beethoven and his music. At times it's a little bit heavy going, but I hesitate to agree with sleeve comments such as `...the Beethoven biography for the intelligent reader' (Stanley Sadie - editor for The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians) for such comments tend to alienate the Beethoven novice and reinforce the myth that classical music is for the intellectual elite.
A good book for the `serious' Beethoven fan, whatever their IQ.