Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Bold composer: A Story about Ludwig van Beethoven

Bold composer: A Story about Ludwig van Beethoven

Judith Pinkerton Josephson
Illustrator:  Barbara Kiwak 
Nonfiction
For ages 8 to 12
Lerner, 2007   ISBN: 978-0822559870

Beethoven came from a musical family and his father, who was a professional musician, dearly hoped that his son Ludwig would become a prodigy like Mozart and that they would all be able to benefit financially from the boy the way Mozart’s family had been able to do. Unfortunately this did not happen for the Beethovens. Ludwig was an exceptional musician but the family just did not have the good luck to find the right kind of patron.

Instead Ludwig went to school until he was eleven and after that he continued to study on his own. This was not unusual at this time. He also began to study music with Christian Gottlob Neefe and under his guidance Ludwig “blossomed,” learning about religious music and about the great composers Bach and Mozart. He also learned to play the violin and viola. He was only eleven when his first keyboard piece was published.

Beethoven hoped to have lessons with the great Mozart but the composer’s early death at the age of thirty-five put an end to that dream. Instead twenty-one-year-old Ludwig went to Vienna to become Franz Joseph Haydn’s student. Though the two musicians were very different in temperament, they managed to find a way to get along for six months. Ludwig took lessons with other piano teachers as well and in time he began to perform in public. He became very popular with the well-to-do people in town who asked him to come to play for them in their homes. Being a taciturn fellow he did not always say yes. Over time his compositions became more and more popular publishers began to compete for the right to publish his works.

When he was only twenty-eight Ludwig’s world began to change – he began to lose his hearing. This was a catastrophe for the young musician and he did everything he could to try to get his hearing back and then to stop the progression of the deafness. Nothing worked. Terrified and embarrassed by what was happening to him Ludwig became more reclusive but he did not stop composing. He was still able to hear music in his head and though he could not perform any more, he could still create marvelous pieces which delighted audiences and which would make his music some of the most famous and treasured pieces ever. Ludwig came to see that he still had a great deal to offer and he was determined to give his all for as long as he could. This he most certainly did.

Without a doubt the author of this biography presents her readers with a thorough and a very sympathetic portrait of Beethoven. We come to appreciate not only how talented and how admired Beethoven was, but also how lonely he was and how hard it was him to lose is hearing so early in his life.

This is one of the titles in the “Creative Minds Biographies” series.