No composer in the history of music has undergone so many makeovers in the portrayal of his facial features or the interpretation of his cultural legacy as Ludwig van Beethoven. The myth began during his lifetime when few verbal or visual portrayals of the composer adhered strictly to his physical appearance; instead his mannerisms, manners, and moods prevailed. Promoted from peevish recluse to Promethean hero, he was pictured early on as a 'genius inspired by inner voices in the presence of nature, with leonine hair writhing wildly in symbolic parallel to the seething turbulence of creativity,' according to the author. In this unique study of the myth-making process across two centuries, Alessandra Comini examines the contradictory imagery of Beethoven in contemporary verbal accounts and in some 200 paintings, prints, sculptures, and monuments. With a witty yet penetrating narrative, she moves through these images to construct a collective image of the composer that reflects the many differing impressions left by devoted 'myth makers' ranging from Wagner, Nietzsche, Berlioz, and Brahms to Rolland, D'Annunzio, and Jenny Lind.
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University Distinguished Professor of Art History Emerita at Southern Methodist University, Alessandra Comini is the author of eight books, one of which was nominated for the National Book Award (Egon Schiele's Portraits). The Republic of Austria extended her its Grand Decoration of Honor in 1990, the National Women's Caucus for Art gave her a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995, and a Comini Lecture Series in her honor was founded in Dallas in 2005. She is associate producer of Museum Music's just-released recording Klimt Musik, featuring composers from Beethoven to Alma and Gustav Mahler.From Publishers Weekly:
This impressive iconographic history by a scholar at Southern Methodist University examines the development of the Beethoven myth from the time of his arrival in Vienna to the year 1902, when Max Klinger's extravagant, multicolored statue (depicted on the book's jacket) was unveiled. Even Beethoven's contemporaries could not agree in describing his facial features or the color of his eyes, and their portrayals of him varied tremendously. Yet today, we all recognize him and associate his physiognomy with his music. As Comini demonstrates, artists have always incorporated their own interior images of Beethoven into their drawings, lithographs, engravings, paintings and sculptures. The book is enriched not only with 221 reproductions of these works (including portraits of those who wrote about him) but also with a comprehensive, illuminating survey of attitudes toward Beethoven by later artists who were influenced by, and fascinated with, the composer and his music. Indeed, the chapter on "The Musician's Musician" takes up 40 percent of the text and contains 717 extensive (and often enjoyable) footnotes. Yet, for all its 480 oversize pages, this book is as compulsively readable on its own more elevated level as another recent study of mythmaking, Joseph Horowitz's Understanding Toscanini.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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