Beethoven is a classic study of the composer's music, written by one of the most important thinkers of our time. Throughout his life, Adorno wrote extensive notes, essay fragments and aides-memoires on the subject of Beethoven's music. This book brings together all of Beethoven's music in relation to the society in which he lived.
Adorno identifies three periods in Beethoven's work, arguing that the thematic unity of the first and second periods begins to break down in the third. Adorno follows this progressive disintegration of organic unity in the classical music of Beethoven and his contemporaries, linking it with the rationality and monopolistic nature of modern society.
Beethoven will be welcomed by students and researchers in a wide range of disciplines - philosophy, sociology, music and history - and by anyone interested in the life of the composer.
2. Music and Concept.
5. Form and the Reconstruction of Form.
7. Early and 'Classical' Phases.
8. Vers une analyse des symphonies. .
9. Late Style (I).
10. Late Work without Late Style.
11. Late Style (II).
12. Humanity and Demythologization.
Comparative Table of Fragments.
Thematic Summary of Contents.
'To great writers, finished works weigh lighter than those fragments on which they work throughout their lives.' Benjamin's aphorism from One-Way Street sounds as if it had been coined for the book Adorno wanted to write decades later on Beethoven. Adorno pursued - one might even say: courted - few of his literary projects as long or intensively as this. And none came to a stop, for almost a lifetime, at a similarly early stage of its composition. His first texts on Beethoven were produced, as yet without any idea of writing a book on the composer, in 1934, the second year of the Nazi regime, and shortly before the beginning of his exile. According to Adorno, he planned to write a 'philosophical work on Beethoven' from 1937; the earliest surviving notes for it date from spring or summer 1938, immediately after his move to New York. He seems to have formed the plan after completing the 'Versuch über Wagner or even in parallel to it. Two years later, in June 1940, a letter to his parents, mainly about the defeat of France, contains the statement: The next major piece of work I intend to take on will be the Beethoven.' The work on Beethoven had actually been started long before, though only in the form of notes on individual compositions and, usually, on isolated aspects of Beethoven's music. But the real work, which for Adorno began only with the formulation of the connected text, had not even been started, doubtless because of the daily pressures to which the émigré writer was exposed. At the end of 1943 - by now Adorno was living in California - he was still far from having started to write the book, as emerges from a letter to Rudolf Kolisch. Referring to 'my long-planned book on Beethoven', Adorno writes: 'I think it ought to be the first thing I do after the war.' But even when the war was over and Adorno was back in Frankfurt-on- Main, he continued to write notes of the kind he had been accumulating more or less continuously since 1938. In 1956, however, these broke off rather abruptly; after that, only a few additions were made. In a letter of July 1957 to the pianist and Beethoven scholar Jürgen Uhde, Adorno remarked wistfully: 'If only I could get on with writing my book on Beethoven, on which I have copious notes. But heaven alone knows when and whether I shall be able to complete it.' In October 1957 Adorno finally wrote the essay 'Verfremdetes Hauptwerk' ['The Alienated Magnum Opus'] on the Missa Solemnis. After dictating the first draft he wrote in his diary, with quite uncharacteristic emotion: 'Thank heaven I have done it at last.' By this time he had clearly given up hope of completing his Beethoven project. When he included the essay on the Missa Solemnis in the miscellany Moments musicaux in 1964, he referred in the Preface to his 'projected philosophical work on Beethoven' as follows: 'It has yet to be written, primarily because the author's exertions have foundered continually on the Missa Solemnis. He has therefore attempted, at least, to explain these difficulties, to state the question more clearly, without presuming to have answered it.' The hope of solving the problems which not only the Missa but Beethoven's music as a whole posed to philosophical interpretation seemed to Adorno increasingly forlorn; but there were times when he entertained it all the same. In an impromptu radio talk on Beethoven's late style in 1966, his last work concerned with Beethoven, Adorno no longer mentioned his plan for a book at all. But not long before his death, in January 1969, he included Beethoven. The Philosophy of Music as the last in a series of eight books he still intended to complete. It is hard here to distinguish the gentle irony with which the sixty-five-year-old author committed himself to writing eight more books, from his unshakable belief in his own productivity, which for others was, indeed, hardly imaginable. Up to the end, the work on Beethoven was not 'written down', nor was its final drafting even begun. The present edition brings together the very numerous preparatory notes for that work, as well as a few completed texts: fragments on which the author worked throughout his life, or at least throughout its most productive phase.
The book now at the reader's disposal contains, on the one hand, every word Adorno wrote for his Beethoven study and, on the other, nothing written by anyone else, at least in the text section. All the same, it is not a book by Adorno. It lacks the closed, integrated structure of a completed work; it has remained a fragment. Adorno's Beethoven is fragmentary in a far more literal sense than his Aesthetic Theory, for example. If the latter has been aptly called a 'great fragment' - it breaks off before the final stage of formulation - the fragments in Beethoven are of a lesser kind. They are first drafts which were put aside before Adorno had attempted to combine them into a whole, or had even sketched a plan for the entire work. None of the notes on Beethoven was written for a reader; they were all intended for the author himself, as aides-mémoire for the time when he would apply himself to the final composition, a task he never began. Many of the notes are merely programmatic in nature, hardly more than what Adorno called a formal indication of what he intended to write. And even when, in some cases, individual ideas and motifs go far beyond this stage, they usually trace the path ahead rather than covering the ground itself. Much of the material, which does not go beyond the mere impression or idea, Adorno would never have approved for printing. While he knew what he intended to say, the reader can only surmise it. The reader of the fragments must always bear in mind that Adorno is not speaking directly to the reader. What is only hinted at, sometimes in a private idiom, the reader must translate into a language in which it can be understood by all. The receptive exertion that any text by Adorno demands of its readers is required in potentiated form by the fragments presented here.
To the Editor, Adorno described his fragments on Beethoven as a diary of his experiences of Beethoven's music. They occur in the same arbitrary sequence in which one is accustomed to hear, play or read music. Their chronological sequence follows the contingency of the abstract passage of time we experience empirically from day to day. The Editor has not retained this sequence in the printed version, but has replaced it by an order of his own. In doing so he has not attempted to organize the material as Adorno himself might have done, had he written the projected book. Instead, the existing notes on Beethoven, however fragmentary or provisional they might appear in relation to a book that does not exist, have been evaluated in terms of their internal structure or logic. The order in which they are presented to the reader is an attempt to make this structure visible. Benjamin spoke of the capacity of neglected historical phenomena to 'attain legibility' as a process in time. In a similar way, fragmentary texts may become legible as a kind of spatial configuration: a signature that can only be deciphered if the surviving fragments and drafts are arranged in a constellation determined by their inherent meaning, whereas it would remain unknowable had the notes been left in the sequence in which they were produced. The present arrangement of Adorno's fragments on Beethoven in no way claims to make good what the author failed to achieve and which has thus been lost for ever. Rather, it attempts to bring the kaleidoscope of material to a standstill, so that the logic behind its chronology can emerge. This procedure is not inappropriate to a philosophy like Adorno's, which from the outset saw its task as that of 'arranging its elements in changing constellations until they form a figure which can be read as an answer while the question simultaneously vanishes'. Just as each of the following fragments on Beethoven contains a question to answer which nothing less than the unwritten book on the composer would be needed, the constellation which the fragments form objectively together cannot, of course, replace that book or answer the question; but it may cause that question, in the way described by Adorno, to 'vanish', by composing itself as a figure which 'can be read as an answer'.
The figure or answer that Adorno's fragments on Beethoven present through their arrangement includes the few texts on the composer that were completed, and these are reproduced with the fragments in what follows. In a conversation in 1964 the author called these texts 'advance payments' on his Beethoven book. At that time the essay 'Spätstil Beethovens' ['Beethoven's Late Style'] had been published; its author wrote of it that it might 'expect to receive some attention in view of Ch. VIII of Doctor Faustus\ Such attention is merited hardly less by the other parts of Adorno's Beethoven. Moreover, the essay later published with the title 'Verfremdetes Hauptwerk' had already been written. Adorno expressly included the passages from the Introduction to the Sociology of Music devoted to Beethoven among those which, he said, constituted a partial anticipation of his projected book. The editor has therefore...