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on 7 October 2012
John Suchet is very well known for his love of Beethoven and has written five other books on Beethoven's life, all of which are incredible. This latest work has clearly been the culmination of years more research and trips around the world to bring us more facts about Beethoven and bring him to life before our eyes. Firstly, the presentation of the book is beautiful. It has a very smart front cover and inside has beautiful illustrations and chapter title pages throughout. The content is a fascinating insight into Beethoven's life starting with a little family history from before he was born. Whether you know nothing about Beethoven or are well read about him, John Suchet writes in a captivating style so it is impossible to put down. In a recent tv interview he said that there are details about Beethoven's life which have never been published before in English, not that I know which ones they are in the book. This is such an interesting biography and you will find yourself sharing the emotions throughout. Having always been a fan of Beethoven's music I wanted to learn more about him, and from loving John Suchet's other books I knew this would be no different. For most of the book I was reading it with John's voice narrating it as he has such an excellent and friendly broadcasting voice. There are no better books out there on Beethoven, although being ever-modest and humble John Suchet lists some books within that he himself deems excellent for scholastic reading.

I highly recommend this read to everyone and will no doubt go back to it time and again throughout the rest of my life. I would also highly recommend reading John Suchet's The Treasures of Beethoven and The Last Master trilogy, both of which are also fascinating. Thank you John Suchet for sharing your passion with us and delivering yet another treasure!
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on 6 September 2014
A fascinating but inevitably frustrating read. John Suchet brings a Classic FM light touch to the subject, but for me fails to 'reveal the man'. The problem he faces, of course, is that there are just not enough hard facts, and he's endlessly left speculating and trying to fill in the gaps - so much so that he verges on caricature at times. By the end of the book I was really none the wiser about this extraordinary and puzzling genius: the answer, I guess, is to listen to the music.
Some things were annnoying: the 9th Symphony is rightly given a big build-up, but the Missa Solemnis, which Beethoven himself regarded as his best work (I agree!), is downplayed to a couple of lines. Suchet pronounces the cause of his death as cirrhosis of the liver (it could have been a number of things) but an alcohol problem is never referenced throughout the book, as one might have expected. Perhaps the best you can say, is that it's fired up my interest.
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on 22 March 2013
I have for most of my life considered Beethoven to be a total genius through his music, especially despite his deafness. Although my collection of his music is not enormous, I have a good collection of his major works. However I have not collected any books about him of any other composer for that matter as I feared that it would be too technical for me who is not an expert in musical composition. However I spotted this book by John Suchet and having read previous reviews I took a chance by buying it. I was not disappointed. It was easy reading and I can see a lot of research has gone into it. Yes there is some speculation on certain events but the author readily admits to this. The book, in my opinion gives a broad picture of the troubled life of probably the world's greatest musician, or at least on par with Mozart, so one can appreciate listening to his music knowing the pain that he was experiencing at the time. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for an insight into the man himself.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 July 2016
I always enjoyed John Suchet's TV presentation both as a journalist and newscaster. I was saddened to to see the personal challenges he faced when his wife was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's and his account of that personal journey is moving and profound. To be honest, I was unaware that he's also a Beethoven expert, and recognised as such worldwide. That, for me was a revelation. I'm no classical music buff, but I have some favourite pieces by a number of composers. Beethoven was extraordinary as a composer; but I knew little about the man. John Suchet's book has filled that gap.

I really like the way he writes about his subject. It's informed, lively and instantly readable whether you're informed or, like me, know little about the man. This is packed with information about his life, from start to finish and it's easy to identify some of the influences in his music. This is far more than a taster, it's a lively and very readable account. It's prompted me to download a similar work about the Strauss brothers and the fall of the Hapsburg Empire. Suchet I brings the man, his challenges and tribulations to life in this account and I found it totally compelling.
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on 26 December 2012
A well written book, Suchets passion is evident throughout the book. Entertaining, informative and presented in a thoughly readable style. By the end of the book, you cannot help but feel compassion towards Beethoven, mixed with wonder at how did such a man compose those latter magnificent works when he was to all intents stone deaf. The ability to hear all those musical notes in his mind, to hear them as a whole is true genius. Every music lover should have a copy of this book, the illustrations alone are worth it.
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on 18 November 2012
Thanks to John Suchet for writing such an engaging book about Beethoven.

I am not a musicologist and I can barely read music. However, I am a multi-instrumentalist and I love classical music. Suchet's approach to Beethoven was therefore just what I was looking for.

This book is a detailed account of the life of a troubled genius, of a life spent mostly in solitude. Nevertheless, and what is amazing to me, Beethoven's production of some of the most beautiful music the world has ever heard continued despite personal problems that would have overwhelmed a lesser inspired person.

Beethoven, as he himself seemed to understand, was on a mission - he looked at his life as a mission - to deliver the fruits of his genius; no amount of personal turmoil or suffering could be allowed to deter him from fulfilling this mission, from obeying his "muse."

In addition to providing many, many anecdotes about all periods of Beethoven's life, Suchet engages in some informed speculation about certain disputed areas. These sections I found especially entertaining - informative and well-reasoned.

Again, thank you Mr Suchet. I feel that I am now beginning to understand Beethoven, and I hope to pursue this study further.
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In this very readable and engaging biography of Beethoven, John Suchet makes no claim to having discovered new facts about the composer's life but believes that his approach to his subject, concentrating as it does on the man rather than the musician, offers the reader a real insight into this most difficult and challenging character. Suchet is a Beethoven scholar and life-long admirer, and wants to show the composer as the complex human being he was. He believes that knowing about the life makes you listen to the music through different ears, and that it helps your appreciation to know what was going on in the composer's life at the time he wrote his great works.
Aimed at enthusiasts, lovers of music and the general reader, rather than at musicologists, the book succeeds on many levels. Informative, and drawing on many sources, it brings Beethoven to life as a fully-rounded person. There is, however, a certain amount of speculation and imaginative interpretation of events, and occasionally the fictionalising of these rings hollow. For me, there was a little too much conjecture at times, especially in the imagined conversations. But Suchet is unapologetic about this. "This is shameless fictionalising, I readily admit," he says at one point, "but it gives a flavour of what I believe probably happened." He admits that there are many questions to which we cannot possibly know the answers, and feels that speculation is fully justified. Certainly it makes for a very enjoyable read, but I did find it all a little too romanticised for comfort at times.
Nevertheless, this is a small quibble, and essentially Suchet has done a wonderful job in bringing the man and his music to life in convincing detail.
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on 13 January 2013
I bought this book for my husband, who is a great devotee of Beethoven. We had heard about the book on Classic FM, to which we often listen in the car. It arrived very well packaged and is a lovely book. My husband was delighted to receive it as a Christmas present and says it is beautifully written and a pleasure to handle and to read. Suchet is obiously passionate about his subject.
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on 18 December 2014
Not many facts, not much insight, even less music. Read this and was rather disappointed --- those who ask "where is the music?" are quite right. Major works are glossed over in a few sentences with no comment about their genesis, impact or critical reception. On the other hand we are given a heap of mundane details. Rather like looking at the stone-mason's pile of leftovers without turning around to look at the cathedral itself.
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on 21 January 2013
I was a little concerned that this would be a regurgitation of Suchet's trilogy 'The Last Master'. I was very happy and reassured that this turned out not to be the case. This book, although using several of the known facts he used in his trilogy 'faction', approaches the life of Beethoven from a completely different and, thus, more interesting angle. His knowledge and insight into the many events in Beethoven's life, together with his 'take' on who the 'Immortal Beloved' might be, is refreshing to say the least. I now listen to Beethoven's masterpieces [particularly my all time favourite - The Emperor 5th Piano Concerto] with much more insight than before. Becoming increasinbgly deaf myself, I appreciate Suchet's treatment of Beethoven's gradual decline into deafness so very much, and find it very touching. When I eventually lose all my hearing - which I am told will happen - I shall have the scores and John Suchet's books to console me.
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