Beethoven Variations

Beethoven Variations

Poems on a Life

Summary

From the author of the bestselling Darwin: A Life in Poems, Ruth Padels 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.

Reviews

  • 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
    Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic

About the author

Ruth Padel

Ruth Padel is a prize-winning poet, author of twelve acclaimed poetry collections and prose works including much-loved books on reading contemporary poetry, a travel-memoir on wild tiger conservation, and a study of the influence of Greek myth on rock music. Awards include a British Council Darwin Now Award, a Travel Bursary and Cholmondley Award from The Society of Authors, and First Prize in the National Poetry Competition. She is Professor of Poetry at King’s College London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
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