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THE HEROIC SYMPHONY by Anna Harwell Celenza


by Anna Harwell Celenza & illustrated by JoAnn E. Kitchel

Age Range: 9 - 11

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 1-57091-509-1
Publisher: Charlesbridge

This companion to The Farewell Symphony (2000) and Pictures at an Exhibition (2003) melodramatically recounts the genesis of Beethoven’s Third Symphony. Unable to stave off his growing deafness, the young composer switches from renowned concert pianist to composer, casts about for inspiration (“Something great, someone heroic”) before selecting Napoleon. He labors over each movement in turn (“ ‘The indescribable joy of being alive!’ shouted Ludwig, banging out a few chords on the piano”), then nearly destroys his work (“I did not write my symphony for a tyrant!”) when Bonaparte declares himself Emperor. Though the faces in Kitchel’s illustrations are as wooden as the dialogue, Beethoven’s shock of black hair underscores his inner turmoil, and fanciful scenes will help unpracticed listeners visualize the scenarios behind the symphony’s movements. Focusing less on the composer’s entire career than on its watershed moment, this isn’t as illuminating as M.T. Anderson’s Handel: Who Knew What He Wanted (2001) or Mordicai Gerstein’s What Charlie Heard (2002), but it does fill in historical and musical background. (afterword, CD) (Picture book/nonfiction. 9-11)