Beethoven, Master Musician Critical Context - Essay

Madeleine Goss

Critical Context

In addition to Beethoven, Master Musician, Goss wrote several other biographies of composers. Among her most important works are other narrative biographies, such as Deep-Flowing Brook: The Story of Johann Sebastian Bach (1938) and Unfinished Symphony: The Story of Franz Schubert (1941). She is also the author of Bolero: The Life of Maurice Ravel (1940), Brahms: The Master (1943), and Modern Music-Makers: Contemporary American Composers (1952), a collective biography of several American composers that is not fictionalized. Goss’s aim was always to bring information about the lives of great composers to a general audience. As she noted in the preface to Beethoven, Master Musician, “there are many readers who have neither time nor desire to study deeply into technical biographies, and still would like to know something about the life and age of the Master-Musician.” It is for this audience that Goss has intended her work.

As a fictionalized biography, Beethoven, Master Musician falls into the same literary genre that later produced such biographical works as Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy (1961), about Michelangelo, and Lust for Life (1934), about Vincent van Gogh. The purpose of the narrative, fictionalized biography is not to produce a book that presents its subject with photographic realism but to convey a general impression of the individual and to describe what it was like to live in an earlier time. By combining features of both the biography and the novel, fictionalized biographies such as this one inform the reader about the past while presenting an entertaining story.