Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Beethoven and the Classical Age

Beethoven and the Classical Age

Andrea Bergamini
Illustrator:  Manuela Cappon 
For ages 12 to and up
Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1999   ISBN: 978-0764151330

Ludwig Van Beethoven came from a musical family and began his life playing on the piano at a very early age. His father was a strict and often harsh teacher who soon had his little son playing concerts for the public in their hometown of Bonn. By the time he was fourteen he was the court vice organist and in 1789 he became a member of the court orchestra. In 1792, Beethoven left for the great and cultured city of Vienna to be the student of the highly respected composer Haydn. At first his life was a humble one but it was not long before his talents and abilities began to assert themselves.

Soon enough Beethoven had wealthy and consistent patrons who were happy to support his work. Once established he also had his works published for which he was paid handsomely by publishers. All too often composers and musicians were forced to give music lessons to be able to pay the rent. This financial freedom certainly contributed to the quantity of work that Beethoven created and also to his ability to be able to be a part of society in Vienna in the years that he lived there.

By being a part of society, Beethoven knew the people who were powerful, to whom he often dedicated his music. In addition he would write pieces to commemorate events that were taking place around him and incorporated philosophical ideals and romantic themes that were currently in vogue into the music that he wrote. He wrote special commissions, performed charity concerts and can be said to have been something of a "star" in his time.

Profusely illustrated and annotated, this is a wonderful book to browse through. Packed with information of all kinds, we learn all about the life and times of Beethoven, including the developments that took place in music at that time. For example we read about the very dramatic and historic events that were taking place in Europe in the late 1700’s, with the French Revolution causing great upheaval. We also learn about the classical style of music first performed by Mozart and Haydn, and about the mysterious woman whom Beethoven called his "Immortal Beloved."