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A decade after the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars had given way to an era of retrenchment and repression, 1824 became a watershed year. The premiere of the Ninth Symphony, the death of Lord Byron – who had been aiding the Greeks in their struggle for independence, Delacroix’s painting of the Turkish massacre of Greeks at Chios and Pushkin’s anti-tyrannical play Boris Godunov all signalled that the desire for freedom was not dead. And all of these works and events were part of the flowering of the High Romantic period.
In The Ninth, eminent music historian and biographer Harvey Sachs employs memoir, anecdote and his vast knowledge of history to explain how the premiere of Beethoven’s staggering last symphony was emblematic of its time – a work of art unlike any other – and a magisterial, humanistic statement that remains a challenge down to our own day and for future generations.
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