Jan Caeyers is a Belgian conductor, who has written a fabulous biography of Ludwig van B, first published in Dutch in 2009, and recently translated into English. It’s a pleasure to read a book like this, sympathetically written by such a literate musician.

He tells Beethoven’s story well — puncturing a few myths along the way, but portraying with eloquence and empathy Beethoven’s personality, foibles, and struggles. The book is not overbalanced with musical analysis, but does cover the pivotal works (Eroica, Fidelio, Missa solemnis, among many others) in a way that can be appreciated equally by professionals and amateurs. Several times, I found myself going to YouTube to fill the gaps in my aural memory.

Caeyers is also good at discussing Beethoven’s personal relationships. Not only the love affairs (including the mysterious ‘immortal beloved‘) but his tempestuous friendships, and of course, the long and ultimately tragic episode involving his nephew, Karl.

It’s a big book (almost 700 pages including indexes) but I came away with a rekindled understanding of the man, his time, and — above all — his music.

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