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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (177 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Harvey Sachs Narrator: Patrick Egan Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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“All men become brothers … Be embraced, ye millions!” 

The Ninth Symphony, a symbol of freedom and joy, was Beethoven’s mightiest attempt to help humanity find its way from darkness to light, from chaos to peace. Yet the work was born in a repressive era, with terrified Bourbons, Hapsburgs, and Romanovs using every means at their disposal to squelch populist rumblings in the wake of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s wars. Ironically, the premiere of this hymn to universal brotherhood took place in Vienna, the capital of a nation that Metternich was turning into the first modern police state.

The Ninth’s unveiling, on May 7, 1824, was the most significant artistic event of the year, and the work remains one of the most influential compositions in the history of music—a reference point and inspiration that resonates even today. But in The Ninth, eminent music historian Harvey Sachs demonstrates that Beethoven was not alone in his discontent with the state of the world. Lord Byron died in 1824 during an attempt to free Greece from the domination of the Ottoman empire; Delacroix painted a masterpiece in support of that same cause; Pushkin, suffering at the hands of an autocratic czar, began to draft his anti-authoritarian play Boris Godunov; and Stendhal and Heine wrote works that mocked conventional ways of thinking.

The Ninth Symphony was so unorthodox that it amazed and confused listeners at its premiere—described by Sachs in vibrant detail—yet it became a standard for subsequent generations of creative artists, and its composer came to embody the Romantic cult of genius. In this unconventional, provocative new book, Beethoven’s masterwork becomes a prism through which we may view the politics, aesthetics, and overall climate of the era.

Part biography, part history, part memoir, The Ninth brilliantly explores the intricacies of Beethoven’s last symphony—how it brought forth the power of the individual while celebrating the collective spirit of humanity.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Insightful…Reading this book, you feel for the composer, trying to bond with others through an astonishing symphony.”

    New York Times

  • “Sachs’ enthusiasm is infectious, his knowledge impressive.”

    USA Today

  • “All music lovers should run, not walk, to purchase The Ninth.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Will send readers to their CD players.”

    Washington Post

  • “An inspiring examination of one of music’s supreme masterpieces.”

    Pittsburgh Tribune Review

  • “A revelatory ride through a creative time and four symphonic movements.”

    Dallas Morning News

  • “This discussion of the cornerstone of Romantic music, whose influence extended deep into the twentieth century, is concise, thorough, and written from the heart of a great biographer, musicologist, and lover of fine music.”


Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Bernie | 1/31/2014

    " An interesting idea following the Tosca and Rome book. Good on the background etc. Too much musical stuff, but all in all an interesting read "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Emily | 1/29/2014

    " I love Beethoven, and his Ninth is one of my favorite pieces of music, so this book was a natural for me to read. The analysis of the score itself, the time period in which it was written, and the effect it had on future music is interesting and very readable. However, the author's political bias, in places where it did not belong, marred my enjoyment of this book. (How the author felt about the Vietnam War really does not help me better understand Beethoven's writing.) "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Debbie | 1/23/2014

    " I didn't find the events of 1824 worth caring much about. The information about Beethoven and his ninth symphony were interesting enough, but this is certainly not a book I would recommend. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Stefanie Lubkowski | 1/23/2014

    " Rather disappointing that Sachs spent so much time (a whole chapter) on his own hearing of the Ninth, instead of the cultural history and context surrounding it. "

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