So one day I’m talking to my wife about music and I tell her I have this great idea for a book. She listened with half an ear. My idea was to write a book about the Beethoven 9th and it’s impact on music and world history. “Oh great honey. You should do that…” Well, I was already too late. The following Sunday I pick up the Arts section of the Dallas Morning News and what do I see? A review of Harvey Sachs book “The 9th Beethoven and the World in 1824.” I have to admit I was furious! It’s funny how suddenly I felt like I had been wronged. Like I would have actually written the book myself?
In any case I’m glad the book has been written and I’m glad it was written by Harvey Sachs. Harvey wrote a great book I read some time ago about Artur Rubinstein. “Rubinstein: A Life”
The book is divided into four parts. The first section is the history of the writing and the debut of the Ninth Symphony. There is fascinating detail here. Where Beethoven lived at the time, the arrangements for the performance, the debut itself, some debunking of myth surrounding the first performance, and it’s aftermath.
Part Two is called “1824 or how Artist internalize Revolution.” Sachs discusses how the defeat and disappoint of Napoleon led to the birth of the “Romantic” period in music, art, and literature. Havey credits Marie-Henri Beyle, a.k.a Stedhal with being the first person to perceive the relationship between “death of the Revoluion and the birth of Romanticism.” He decusses the impact of Romanticism on the philosphy of G.W.F. Hegel who said “Philosphoy my expect attention and love again; when this science, stricken dumb, can lift up its voice again and hope that a world which had become deaf to it may lend an ear to it once more.” Sach states that if you change “philosophy” and “science” to “music’ and “art”, Beethoven himself could have said this.
As monarchy’s re-solidified there hold on power after the defeat of Napolean, poets, artists, and musicians looked to bold statements like the ninth to inspire them to rage against empirial rule. “All Men Are Brothers” the finale of the 9th proclaims. Lord Byron even stated that he was “fighting freedoms battle.” Sachs concludes that “the hidden thread” that connects the other important works of 1824 is the quest for freedom proclaimed in the choral finale of Beethoven’s Ninth. This is one of the most interesting parts of the book as Mr. Sachs tries to connect Beethoven’s Ninth to the works of Heinrich Henine, Byron, Eugene Delacroix, Nietzsche, and Goethe.
Part three of the book is entittled “Imaging the Ninth.” I recommend reading along with a score of the ninth and a recording. If you don’t have a score then at least listen to the ninth as Harvey Sachs gives you a verbal discription in painstaking and engrossing detail. This is a fantastic section. I am reminded of the movie about Beethoven “Imortal Beloved” In the movie there is a performance of the finale of the 9th and it turns into a fantasy sequiece of what Beethoven may have been imagining when he wrote it. I love Mr. Sachs verbal discription of this amazing work!
Part 4 of the book is about how music and musicians moved forward after the debut of the 9th. Every great composer after Beethoven talked about how intemidating it was to compose a Symphony after the 9th. Beethoven had an enormous impact on Hector Berlioz. By the end of Berlioz life he had become know as “The French Beethoven”. His shadow towered over Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Malher just to name a few. His impact on Wagner is also discussed.
This is just a highly readable, very informative book by a highly skilled writer. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves music. You do not have to be a trained musician to enjoy this book. It will benefit the novice as well as the highly informed musician.