From the author of the bestselling Darwin: A Life in Poems, Ruth Padel’s new collection follows in the footsteps of one of the world’s greatest composers, Beethoven, and investigates what his life and music might mean to us today
Two hundred and fifty years since Beethoven was born, Ruth Padel goes on a personal search for him, retracing his steps through war-torn Europe of the early nineteenth century, delving into his music, letters, diaries and the conversation books he used when deaf, to uncover the man behind the legend. Her quest, exploring the life of one of the most creative artists who ever lived, turns more personal than she expects, taking her into the sources of her own creativity and musicality. From a deeply musical family herself, Padel’s parents met through music, and she grew up playing chamber music on viola – Beethoven’s instrument as a child. Her father’s grandfather, a concert pianist born on the German–Danish border, studied in Leipzig with a friend of Beethoven before immigrating to the UK. The poems in this illuminating biography in verse conjure not only Beethoven’s life and personality, but her own music-making and love both of the European music-making tradition to which her father’s family belongs, and to the continent itself Europe.
How to uncover from biographical details the mystery that is music? With precision, heart-breaking beauty and lyric insight, Ruth Padel performs a miracle: Beethoven comes alive before us, the son of a drunk, who became a genius, and lost everything, and found his way back to the center. And here we are, following Padel's own genius for composing the music of a story via lyrical means. You will find your heart shored up / by meeting the trapped brilliance of his eyes, she writes. Indeed
Poetry, biography, music and memoir collide in this wonderful collection from Ruth Padel... A tender and evocative portrait of the man and his music, and most of all the profound ways it affects listeners and performers
Padel's imagery and imagination took me deeper into Beethoven than many biographies I've read... Padel knows her history. But a poet is free to inhabit her subject and elaborate on the record
What a wonderful and unusual idea. Ruth Padel writes with true passion; her love for, and understanding of, the man and his music shine through each poem