The First Four Notes by Matthew Guerrieri
Beethoven's Fifth and the Human Imagination

82%

5 Critic Reviews

One gets the impression that the rapid shifting of subjects, references, details and insights derive in part from a youthful albeit charming desire to display learning rather than from any intrinsic connection to the argument.
-WSJ online

Synopsis

A TIME Magazine Top 10 Nonfiction Book of 2012
A New Yorker Best Book of the Year
Los Angeles Magazine's #1 Music Book of the Year

A unique and revelatory book of music history that examines in great depth what is perhaps the best-known and most-popular symphony ever written and its four-note opening, which has fascinated musicians, historians, and philosophers for the last two hundred years.

Music critic Matthew Guerrieri reaches back before Beethoven’s time to examine what might have influenced him in writing his Fifth Symphony, and forward into our own time to describe the ways in which the Fifth has, in turn, asserted its influence. He uncovers possible sources for the famous opening notes in the rhythms of ancient Greek poetry and certain French Revolutionary songs and symphonies. Guerrieri confirms that, contrary to popular belief, Beethoven was not deaf when he wrote the Fifth. He traces the Fifth’s influence in China, Russia, and the United States (Emerson and Thoreau were passionate fans) and shows how the masterpiece was used by both the Allies and the Nazis in World War II. Altogether, a fascinating piece of musical detective work—a treat for music lovers of every stripe. 
 

About Matthew Guerrieri

See more books from this Author
Matthew Guerrieri is a music critic for The Boston Globe, and his articles have also appeared in Vanity Fair, NewMusicBox, Playbill, and Slate. He is responsible for the popular classical music blog Soho the Dog (sohothedog.blogspot.com). He lives in Framingham, Massachusetts.
 
Published November 13, 2012 by Vintage. 386 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The First Four Notes
All: 5 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 0

Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Sep 17 2012

He makes the muzziest musico-philosophical conceits accessible and relevant, while tossing off his own intriguing insights

Read Full Review of The First Four Notes: Beethov... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Leon Botstein on Dec 21 2012

One gets the impression that the rapid shifting of subjects, references, details and insights derive in part from a youthful albeit charming desire to display learning rather than from any intrinsic connection to the argument.

Read Full Review of The First Four Notes: Beethov... | See more reviews from WSJ online

Washington Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Claire Hopley on Dec 07 2012

...music lovers will find much to enthrall them in his pages, while readers interested in the intellectual history of Europe and the United States will be captured by its application to Beethoven’s Fifth.

Read Full Review of The First Four Notes: Beethov... | See more reviews from Washington Times

Los Angeles Review of Books

Good
Reviewed by Eileen Reynolds on Dec 18 2012

His straightforward reading of the Fifth’s opening phrase highlights its harmonic and rhythmic ambiguities

Read Full Review of The First Four Notes: Beethov...

The Courier-Journal

Good
Reviewed by Patrick Nevins on Jan 25 2013

Perhaps the greatest compliment any reviewer can give “The First Four Notes” is that readers will never hear the Fifth the same way again.

Read Full Review of The First Four Notes: Beethov...

Reader Rating for The First Four Notes
66%

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