I have just spent an enjoyable reading week - I have read all three volumes of John Suchet's "fictionalised biography" of the Beethoven, and although I knew most of the story really well, I had never before put it into chronological order, and I had not realised that he moved in such high society. The sheer tenacity of the man is remarkable. Everything that could have happened to make life harder - did. A brutal father and uncaring mother, the few chances Beethoven had to better himself quickly were lost through unfortunate circumstances; his health once it deteriorated became unremittingly bad once he passed his youth, and of course his hearing loss was not only awful and painful in itself, but greatly affected the way he was able to communicate and interact with others and needless to say it destroyed also ability to perform in public although by all accounts he was a remarkable pianist.
Nevertheless, Beethoven persisted and was somehow able to "hear" enough of what he was writing either at the piano or in his head and poured out an astonishing amount of very intense work, all highly individualistic. Beethoven would not and could not be a conformist and he strove to break the rules of the musical forms he had inherited from Haydn and Mozart. Throughout his life he believed that it was his job to be an "artist" - that he was a creator who would communicate his ideas not just for his immediate audience but for posterity. He endured a string of disastrous permiere performances and the stories surrounding them are painful reading
Equally painful reading is Suchet's account of Beethoven's attempt to adopt and educate his nephew, and also the account of his attempts to find a woman to love, ending finally with his letter to the Immortal Beloved which Suchet weaves a story around.
I am not ultimately sure that it is possible to write a totally convincing fictional biography sticking as closely as possible to the facts simply because one is always painfully aware of the authors voice - in this case Suchet who obviously admires, pities, is critical of or supportive of his subject. I enjoyed the books very much, and hope that they will lead me on to do more research into the life of Beethoven myself, and also into the study of the structure of his music.
Sometimes I find that fiction can awaken an interest much more quickly than academic study - well thats how I find I work anyway!