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February 06 , 2011

The Life of Ludwig van Beethoven, Volume I of III


If for no other reasons than because of the long time and monumental patience expended upon its preparation, the vicissitudes through which it has passed and the varied and arduous labors bestowed upon it by the author and his editors, the history of Alexander Wheelock Thayer’s Life of Beethoven deserves to be set forth as an introduction to this work. His work it is, and his monument, though others have labored long and painstakingly upon it. There has been no considerable time since the middle of the last century when it has not occupied the minds of the author and those who have been associated with him in its creation. Between the conception of its plan and its execution there lies a period of more than two generations. Four men have labored zealously and affectionately upon its pages, and the fruits of more than four score men, stimulated to investigation by the first revelations made by the author, have been conserved in the ultimate form of the biography. It was seventeen years after Mr. Thayer entered upon what proved to be his life-task before he gave the first volume to the world—and then in a foreign tongue; it was thirteen more before the third volume came from the press. This volume, moreover, left the work unfinished, and thirty-two years more had to elapse before it was completed. When this was done the patient and self-sacrificing investigator was dead; he did not live to finish it himself nor to see it finished by his faithful collaborator of many years, Dr. Deiters; neither did he live to look upon a single printed page in the language in which he had written that portion of the work published in his lifetime. It was left for another hand to prepare the English edition of an American writer’s history of Germany’s greatest tone-poet, and to write its concluding chapters, as he believes, in the spirit of the original author.
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