From the author of the bestselling Darwin: A Life in Poems, Ruth Padel's new collection follows in the footsteps of one of the world's greatest composers, Beethoven, and investigates what his life and music might mean to us today
Two hundred and fifty years since Beethoven was born, Ruth Padel goes on a personal search for him, retracing his steps through war-torn Europe of the early nineteenth century, delving into his music, letters, diaries and the conversation books he used when deaf, to uncover the man behind the legend. Her quest, exploring the life of one of the most creative artists who ever lived, turns more personal than she expects, taking her into the sources of her own creativity and musicality. From a deeply musical family herself, Padel's parents met through music, and she grew up playing chamber music on viola - Beethoven's instrument as a child. Her father's grandfather, a concert pianist born on the German-Danish border, studied in Leipzig with a friend of Beethoven before immigrating to the UK. The poems in this illuminating biography in verse conjure not only Beethoven's life and personality, but her own music-making and love both of the European music-making tradition to which her father's family belongs, and to the continent itself Europe.