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  • Published: 16 July 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241990858
  • Imprint: Penguin Audio
  • Format: Audio Download
  • RRP: $27.99


A Life in Nine Pieces

An authoritative and refreshing account of Beethoven's life and music, for the 250th anniversary of his birth

Ludwig van Beethoven: to some, simply the greatest ever composer of Western classical music. Yet his life remains shrouded in myths, and the image persists of him as an eccentric genius shaking his fist at heaven.

Beethoven by Oxford professor Laura Tunbridge cuts through the noise in a refreshing way. 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. It's a winning combination of rich biographical detail, insight into the music and surprising new angles, all of which can transform how you listen to his works. We discover, for example, Beethoven's oddly modern talent for self-promotion, how he was influenced by factors from European wars to instrument building, and how he was heard by contemporaries.

This tour de force - published for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth - provides a fresh overview and a wealth of material that has never been revealed to the wider public before. It's a compelling, human portrayal of Beethoven and a fascinating journey into one of the world's most amazing creative minds.

  • Published: 16 July 2020
  • ISBN: 9780241990858
  • Imprint: Penguin Audio
  • Format: Audio Download
  • RRP: $27.99

Praise for Beethoven

Mark that young man, he will make a name for himself in the world

Mozart after hearing the young Beethoven play

This book is really wonderful! Nine works of Beethoven from different times in his life tell the story of that life - nine windows through which the man and his music are revealed with captivating clarity. We often speak about the 'universal spirit' of Beethoven but this book also brings to life how he fits into, and indeed creates, the new universe of cultural life which was born as the nineteenth century began. However many books on Beethoven you own, find the space for one more. This one

Stephen Hough, pianist, composer, writer

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

I truly enjoyed reading it . . . Excellent . . . Laura Tunbridge upends the two-centuries-old image of Beethoven as a Promethean Titan heroically composing works of genius on his isolated rock of suffering. She convincingly argues that Beethoven's current iconic status must be understood within the context of his financial dealings and lifetime of often affable, sometimes acerbic, vibrant interchanges with family members, other composers, patrons, friends, musicians, singers, publishers, producers, and makers of musical instruments. Her detailed musical analyses of familiar as well as now rarely-performed works of Beethoven converse with one another as well as with other music of the era and with quotidian life in Vienna. This well researched and accessible book is a must read for all who seek to know more about the flesh and blood tangible Beethoven and the checkered history of his reception than about the Beethoven of unfathomable mythic immensity

John Clubbe, author of Beethoven: The Relentless Revolutionary

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

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 . . . profoundly original and hugely readable

John Suchet, author Beethoven: The Man Revealed

Remarkable . . . she 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

I found Tunbridge's book full of thought-provoking detail. Beethoven may be irredeemably pale and male, but, in this far-ranging discussion, his life and revolutionary music never feel stale

Richard Morrison, The Times

Elegant, enquiring and best read with the music turned up

Julian Glover, Evening Standard

Illuminating . . . deftly gathers in the connections . . . In 288 pages, Tunbridge gives us detail enough to create a rounded portrait . . . She makes us marvel at Beethoven all the more

Fiona Maddocks, Observer

You don't have to be a music scholar to enjoy this brilliant, and pleasingly concise book. But, if you don't love Beethoven, both the man and his music, when you start, you should by the time you finish

Roger Alton, Daily Mail

Cuts straight to the action . . . Tunbridge balances the traditional narrative of universal, timeless genius, of innovation before its time, with a pragmatic, jobbing musician working hard to make a living

Alexandra Coghlan, Spectator

Compact but also rewarding...a lot of information is packed into her musical portraits

Richard Fairman, Financial Times

Laura Tunbridge finds something fresh to say about Beethoven by looking at his life through nine pieces... An entertaining way to celebrate the great man's 250th birthday

James Marriott, Sunday Times Books of the Year

A twinkling elucidation of concert life in Vienna... fluent, concise and engaging

Paul Griffith, Times Literary Supplement

Laura Tunbridge, in her new biographical study, has found an elegant way to give Beethovenian heroism and struggle its due, while slyly plucking at the reverse of Solomon's martial banner... Each chapter delivers its little shock of correction

James Wood, London Review of Books

A concise, subtly revealing survey... emphasizing the many-sidedness of the composer's spirit

Alex Ross, New Yorker

Laura Tunbridge offers a timely portrait of the composer in an elegant biography . . . refreshingly, [she] focuses on the man rather than the myth. Knowledgeable and humane, this is a deeply sympathetic portrait of a turbulent musical genius

Jane Shilling, Daily Mail

Beautifully written, warmly-accessible, fascinating

BBC Music Magazine on Singing in the Age of Anxiety

Thought-provoking, superb

Classical Music on Schumann's Late Style

Subtle and extensive

The New York Review of Books on Singing in the Age of Anxiety


Roger Parker, King's College London on Singing in the Age of Anxiety

Important, beautifully written, fascinating

Susan Youens, University of Notre Dame on The Song Cycle

Consistently perceptive critical acumen

Kenneth Stilwell, Nineteenth-Century Music Review on Schumann's Late Style

Original, superbly done, beautifully written

Susan Youens, University of Notre Dame on The Song Cycle


Classical Music on The Song Cycle

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