Beethoven’s social network
To fend off social isolation resulting from deafness, Beethoven used conversational notebooks to communicate. The 139 books offer insights into cultural history – and an into an enigmatic artist.
Beethoven’s friend Gerhard von Breuning wrote in his memoirs that a “conversation notebook including a pencil” was always at the ready for Beethoven’s visitors to write down their thoughts and comments. The composer would read them and then respond orally. But Beethoven also used the notebooks to jot down his musical brainstorms and other musings.
The conversation books lend insight into Beethoven’s compositional process, and they bring the people around him into sharper focus. For musicologist and Beethoven researcher Emil Platen, the notebooks are an invaluable treasure.
“They are extremely important for understanding Beethoven’s biography,” he said. “They shed a lot of light onto his personal circumstances from 1818 until his death.”