Beethoven’s String Quartet Opus 74 ‘The Harp’
The story traces the history of Beethoven’s Opus 74 String Quartet from its composition in besieged Vienna in 1809 through its concealment in Poland during World War Two, to the present day where it is held hostage in the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków, Poland until adequate war reparations are paid by Germany.
Gunther Erdogan, second violinist of the London String Quartet, is pressured by a secret agent of the German government to steal Beethoven’s manuscript from the library during a European concert tour and return it to Berlin. Gunther decides to turn the situation to his advantage, to settle his sizeable debts and to earn the lucky break that will put him on a successful career track. For fifteen years since the London Quartet was formed, Gunther has played second fiddle to the arrogant Gordon James, their rivalry tempered by the other two quartet members, violist Jacek Kowalski and cellist John Roberts, all graduates from the same class at the Royal Academy of Music. When John steps down from the quartet, the arrival of Juilliard graduate Jennifer Rose as the group’s new cellist rocks the boat, while Gordon and Gunther compete to win her affection. When the quartet visits Kraków, Jacek meets the love of his life, a young baker called Krzyzstof, and they get married on the spur of the moment a few months later in Napa, California, where the quartet performs a benefit concert for Jennifer’s favorite charity.
Gunther decides to double-cross the German government and to offer the autograph page of Beethoven’s manuscript to Jennifer’s father, venture capitalist Edgar Rose, who is also an avid collector of Beethoven memorabilia. Gunther and Jennifer become a couple, and Gunther wins two positions in prestigious orchestras. Just as Gunther has reached the pinnacle of his career, his life is cut short in the aftermath of a terrorist bombing at the opening concert of the Beethoven Festival in Bonn.
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.75 out of 10
Plot: White crafts a rich historical story that grounds readers in more than one era and powerfully explores the lives and minds of musicians. The author is adept at building suspense and surprises readers with unexpected developments. Occasional POV confusion is a minor blemish.
Prose: Descriptions are as engaging as the plot, with authentic period details. White’s prose is sophisticated and elegant, while her descriptions of musical compositions are themselves melodic and lyrical.
Originality: The concept of following a work of Beethoven through lands, times, and crimes is remarkably original. The author pulls off the conceit with grace and bold storytelling.
Character Development: Characterizations are organic, fluid, and vivid. The author excels at clearly maintaining characters’ distinct temperaments and psychological complexities.
Blurb: As mellifluous as it is absorbing, this story of a Beethoven score moving through history, will move readers with its originality and historical breadth.
Date Submitted: August 08, 2018