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Book review - Beethoven Lives Upstairs - Barbara Nichol

Book Review

Beethoven Lives Upstairs
CD by Classical Kids (Children's Group - #84236, 1995).
Book by Barbara Nichol (Orchard Books, 1999).
Video (Wea/Atlantic/Children's Group, 1999).

One characteristic of Big Learning (the idea, not the newsletter) is that new facts and ideas are embedded in bigger experiences. We do; therefore, we learn. The more emotional connection we have with these experiences, the bigger the learning, the longer it lasts, and the more it fires our curiosity.

So as a way to learn about the history of classical music, you can't go wrong with Beethoven Lives Upstairs , which you can enjoy as a book, CD, or video.

Beethoven Lives Upstairs tells the story of a fictional relationship between a young boy, Christoph, and Ludwig van Beethoven. After Christoph's father dies, his mother takes in a strange boarder: the mad composer Beethoven. At first Christoph is mortified by Beethoven's eccentric behavior, but gradually gets to know and appreciate him. The story is told as a correspondence between Christoph and his uncle.

There are all sorts of historical details embedded in the story, as well as poignant examination of Beethoven's experience of deafness and ways he tried to compensate for his hearing loss.

Of the three media types, the CD is my favorite. The text is the same as the book, but as we hear the voice of Christoph or his uncle, Beethoven's music cleverly forms the musical soundtrack. This adds considerable emotional punch to the experience of hearing the story, and introduces some of Beethoven's works.

The book version is also beautifully done, illustrated with paintings by Scott Cameron. In fact, I think the ideal way to enjoy this story would be to follow along in the book while listening to the CD.

Our family found the video a little slow. It's a much-expanded version of the story, with all sorts of subplots and unnecessary complications. It does have the advantage of rich visuals. The depiction of Christoph's house and lifestyle brings nineteenth-century Vienna to life. There are lovely scenes that show Beethoven rehearsing his new Ninth Symphony.




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