Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a prolific letter writer, with thousands of examples surviving to this day. Often written in great haste - 'in der Eile' was a common sign-off - they allow us to follow the great composer's anxieties and preoccupations, revealing the human figure behind some of the greatest music ever written. Despite the fact that 'many of Beethoven's letters slumber in foreign lands, especially in the unapproachable cabinets of curiosities belonging to various close-fisted English collectors', the German musicologist Ludwig Nohl (1831-85) published his collection of letters in 1865, and this two-volume English translation by Grace Jane Wallace (1804-78) appeared the following year, reflecting the fact that interest in Beethoven had not diminished nearly forty years after his death. In Volume 2 we read of Beethoven's despair as his health fails, and of his efforts to fulfil the commission that would become his greatest masterpiece, the Ninth Symphony.
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Beethoven was a prolific letter writer, with thousands of examples surviving to this day. This two-volume collection, in English translation, appeared in 1866 and includes the 'Heiligenstadt Testament', one of many documents providing us with startling and personal insights into the character and preoccupations of a musical genius.
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