Beethoven-A Documentary Study compiled and edited by H.C Robbins Landon

Beethoven-A Documentary Study compiled and edited by H.C Robbins Landon.


Published 1970.

This is a book is one of my favourites in my Beethoven book collection- it is full of contemporary sources- letters, diaries and anecdotes from Beethoven’s friends and contemporaries and the great man himself. It is lavishly illustrated throughout ( portraits of Beethoven and those of his friends, places he lived, visited etc..), many in colour.

The pictures and anecdotes bring a vivid and immediate snapshot of Beethoven:



(Note: meaning the French army, not the French people in general- having once being told to play for soldiers at a dinner given by Prince Lichnowsky which annoyed him, so he left)

An unusual pencil drawing of Beethoven, by Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfield, 1808/1809, seen side on, which gives a different impression than the usual portraits. If you look at the drawing, his expressions seem to change- one moment he is thoughtful, the next his mouth sets in determination, then amusements flickers in his eyes and the corner of his mouth..a fascinating image of him indeed! It is also interesting as we can see in 1808/1809 he still had the fashionable short hair, sideburns and flicked up fringe. He would have been 38-39 years old.

B drawing

Robbins Landon says in the book, that the artist was very famous at that time, and the drawing was done in the Malfatti family’s sketchbook, now sadly “disappeared.”. The author doesn’t say how it was lost, nor who last owned this drawing. I am presuming that this is a photograph of the drawing- maybe it is hidden in a drawer somewhere and will one day be found…


2 thoughts on “Beethoven-A Documentary Study compiled and edited by H.C Robbins Landon

  1. I have just begun reading Jan Swafford’s biography of Beethoven (Anguish and Triumph) would you say this is a good/reliable account? I’m enjoying it so far, but then again I’m not an expert on these things. Also how much is the above work it sounds very interesting?

  2. I haven’t actually got a copy of Swafford’s book, so I haven’t read it through- I have seen some excerpts which seemed ok. I know people who have read it and seem to like it. What I always say to people about biographies of historical people, is that when one reads a biography to be aware that the biographer invariably brings his or her own interpretation of the historical person’s life, character etc. Some make great efforts to be as objective as possible and pay close attention to historical documents such as letters and diary entries. Some unfortunately make up strange theories. The historical person’s own words ( letters, diaries etc) for me should always be the primary source. The Robbins book is out of print but can be found online for between £5- £10.

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