Beethoven: The Universal Composer
Who’s the greatest artist of all time? Michelangelo? Shakespeare? Kanye West? My vote is for Beethoven. No work shoots higher, plunges deeper, or bleeds with more passion than his nine symphonies alone. You don’t need to know anything about classical music to love him, or to enjoy presidential biographer Edmund Morris’ fleet mini-bio, Beethoven: The Universal Composer, an ideal starting point toward ultimate appreciation. The spellbinding paradox of Beethoven’s life was that the more tragic it got — he went deaf, and borderline nuts — the more magnificent his music-making became. Take the Ninth Symphony, the last piano sonatas, and the late string quartets. ”All these perfections,” explains Morris, ”arose out of psychosis, like nebulae spun out of deep space.” They still give off more light than just about anything else in the universe.