Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Heroic symphony

The Heroic symphony

Anna Harwell Celenza
Illustrator:  Joann E. Kitchel 
For ages 6 to 10
Charlesbridge, 2004   ISBN: 978-1570915093

Ludwig van Beethoven was the talk of the town. The people who lived in Vienna were proud of their talented composer and flocked to hear him play the piano. What no one knew was that Ludwig was going deaf. It is hard to imagine how he must have felt at this time for he was sure that without his hearing he could not be a musician. He went and saw a famous doctor but there was nothing the doctor could do to help the desperate man and Ludwig had lost more of his hearing in the meantime. Now Ludwig truly felt as if his life was over. And then something remarkable happened, he began to “hear” a melody in his head. Ludwig came to understand that he did not need his ears to be able to create music.

Ludwig decided that he wanted to write a piece of music which would move his audience, which would sweep them up with its power and its emotion. He struggled to find something or someone to write about but the inspiration he was looking for remained elusive. Then, at last, Ludwig decided to write a piece about Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who had helped to free his people in France from the tyranny of kings.

Ludwig wrote a truly “heroic” piece which he hoped captured the grandeur of Napoleon’s achievements and the admiration that people had for him. He also put a great deal of himself into the music and it told his own story as well as that of the great general.

When Ludwig heard that Napoleon had declared himself the Emperor of France he was furious. It would appear that the hero was not a hero at all – he was a tyrant. Ludwig was going to destroy his symphony but luckily a friend stopped him in time, a friend who helped Ludwig see what really lay at the heart of his remarkable “Eroica Symphony.”

This moving story is based on real events which occurred when Ludwig van Beethoven was trying to reconcile himself to the loss of his hearing. When readers listen to the symphony for themselves they will see that the music is a tribute to all heroes and it is certainly a tribute to Ludwig Van Beethoven’s own struggle and courage. The story is beautifully written with great understanding and an obvious appreciation for both Ludwig Van Beethoven’s life and for the era that he lived in.

At the back of the book the reader will find an Author’s note which provides further information about Beethoven and his work.