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The Heroic Symphony

As in their previous collaborations, Celenza brings a famous musician to life while Kitchel provides energetic art. This time, they present the story of Beethoven's despair over his deafness and his eventual triumph as he gives himself over to the symphony that highlights his struggle to survive as a musician. Originally written as a celebration of Napoleon's victory, the four movements were meant to reflect Bonaparte's courage and heroism. Soon after Beethoven completed them, however, he discovered the great warrior's treachery in declaring himself Emperor of France. The composer ripped a copy of the score he had intended as a gift, but his friend Ferdinand Ries prevented him from destroying the composition. The Bonaparte Symphony was later renamed the Eroica, or Heroic Symphony. Celenza's research into the details of this piece of music reflects her scholarly background; she unearthed primary-source material that is described in an author's note. The stylized watercolor-and-ink paintings evoke the mood of each movement; for the first one, Napoleon's horse seems to jump right out of the musical score. To reflect the French origins of the symphony, Kitchel backs most of the illustrations with a toile design. Although there are many books on this composer, such as Barbara Nichol's Beethoven Lives Upstairs (Orchard, 1994) and Mike Venezia's Ludwig van Beethoven (Children's, 1996), this one, with its emphasis on one segment of his life, is a worthwhile purchase.
School Library Journal