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The Relentless Revolutionary

August 2019

John Clubbe (Author)


Beethoven’s political ideals, inspired by the French Revolution and Napoleon, radiate through his ground-breaking compositions.

Beethoven imbibed Enlightenment and revolutionary ideas in Bonn where they were fervently discussed in cafés and at the university. At the age of twenty-one, he moved to Vienna to study with Haydn, gaining renown as a master pianist and innovative composer. In the capital of the Hapsburg Empire, authorities were watchful to curtail and punish displays of radical political views. Nevertheless, Beethoven avidly followed the rise of Napoleon and his republican reforms. As Napoleon had liberated Europe from aristocratic oppression, Beethoven desired to liberate music and mankind itself.

Through Beethoven’s letters, portraits and other personal papers, and by setting him alongside the major artists of the time, John Clubbe illuminates Beethoven’s role as a lifelong revolutionary.


"Clubbe’s biography is a thorough account of Beethoven’s inspirations, collaborators, and his turbulent times. It frames his work with political events and makes a compelling argument for their impact on the man." — New Statesman

"A thoughtful cultural history that takes into account the times in which Beethoven lived and worked—and they were times of revolution." — Tim Page, The Washington Post



165 x 244 mm • 512 pages


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