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Ciardiello, J.A. (1985). Beethoven: Modern Analytic Views Of The Man And His Music. Psychoanal. Rev., 72(1):129-147.

(1985). Psychoanalytic Review, 72(1):129-147

Beethoven: Modern Analytic Views Of The Man And His Music

Jean A. Ciardiello, ED.D.

Listening to Beethoven's symphonies, I have often wondered about the composer whose music had the power to evoke such strong feelings in me. This paper was a way to know the man who could console me with the “Funeral March” from “Eroica” and convey hope in the triumph of the Ninth Symphony's “Ode to joy.” It allowed me to pursue a fascination with Beethoven's musical genius and a curiosity about the riddles of his personality. How could a man compose his best music in total deafness? Somehow, Beethoven's music often seemed to be at odds with his life. He could express profound love, although he had been unable to establish enduring and loving relationships in his life. His works are generally hopeful, despite his frequent bouts of despair and suicidal tendencies. His music often extols the “brotherhood of man” and the Enlightenment notions of the liberty and worth of the individual, while Beethoven himself often feigned nobility and held many elitist attitudes. In the well-known Outline of Music, Sargent and Cooper (1962) made similar comments.

The riddle of Beethoven's personality and the legends that sprang up about him during his lifetime all point to the special qualities of his music…. The man Beethoven was intransigent as Mozart; he felt that he was set by his genius above his fellows, and he had none of Mozart's social sense. Even his consistency was a largely musical consistency. For all his parade of republican principles, he was ready to accept court employment if it were offered; and despite his high moral protestations he was prepared to sell his work to several publishers at once. The intense sensibility of the music he wrote seems to have been coupled with an almost total incapacity to divine the feelings of others.

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