Latest updates

A very special evening on 24 May

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Dear friends and supporters,

I hope you are keeping well and looking forward to being able to hug people once again. With just two weeks to go until the long-postponed first performances of the 'Immortal' Concert of the Novel, it is looking as if it really will happen this time (she said, crossing fingers madly). Viv McLean and I can't wait to be reunited for the first time in over a year.…

IMMORTAL Concerts, Rescheduled!

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Dear friends, supporters and IMMORTALs,

Whatever the rest of 2021 may hold, the parrots on the apple tree, the woodpeckers in the park and the cats moulting inside the house assure me that it really is springtime. In addition, I'm thrilled to say that some of my "concerts of the novel" of IMMORTAL, along with a few other stage pieces, are once again in the diary. Let's take this slowly, because…


Wednesday, 16 December 2020

It's today - probably. It may actually be tomorrow. Either way, Happy Beethoven's Birthday! 

How will you celebrate? Personally, I will be busy transcribing an interview about Beethoven with a total genius of a pianist whose CD booklet note I am writing.

It's Krystian Zimerman. You can see his performances with Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO of the five Beethoven concertos in three chunks…

Here in our haven...

Monday, 23 November 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

It's been a hectic few weeks and a bout of tonsillitis didn't help. So from the tranquility of a plane-less Monday morning, in company with a snoring cat and a violinist practising Paganini downstairs, here's a quick update and some links for a catch-up.

First of all, because of a sudden, belated and unexpected lockdown (thanks, Boris...) everyone's carefully…

That was the night that was

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

Tremendous thanks to everyone who joined us on Zoom a week ago for the Immortal virtual launch party. It was quite a revelation on several counts.

First, it is every bit as much a launch do as a "real" party would be: you have to prepare properly and have the right support. I could not have been more fortunate in my amazing team, all dear friends with special kinds…


Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

I’d love to invite you to a digital launch party for Immortal. Even though we can’t meet in person, we’re going to do the best we can online: please join us for some reading, pictures, an interview and Q&A with me, and even some music. Do bring a glass of bubbly, a nice cup of tea or anything you fancy.

I'm delighted that my interviewer will be Joanna Pieters…

Wigmore Hall's digital launch for 'Immortal'

Friday, 30 October 2020

Dear all,

Yesterday was rather amazing: publication day included lots of wonderful messages, the first reviews (nice ones - phew!) and the release of Wigmore Hall's video in which I introduce the book and do some readings and the wonderful pianist Mishka Rushdie Momen (pictured) plays Beethoven's Sonata in F major, Op. 10 No. 2. This was made possible by the extremely kind invitation of the Hall…


Thursday, 29 October 2020

It's the big day. 29 October 2020 and IMMORTAL is officially out. All you wonderful people who have subscribed should already have your copies, and I know that some of you have even finished it (apparently long books are in vogue at the moment - er, something to do with lockdown - and probably just as well, given the size of this one). So there we are. Is this the end of a journey, or the beginning…

One week to go!

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

You will already have recevied your copies of IMMORTAL, but the rest of the world has to wait until 29 October, which is Official Publication Day. Here's an update on what is planned to help set it on its way.

First of all, there's this amazing modern phenomenon called The Blog Tour. The dedication of book bloggers never ceases to amaze me: that there are so many…

The difficult stuff

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Dear friends and supporters, 

Hopefully you will now have received your shiny new copies, or indeed shiny new ebooks, of IMMORTAL itself. I hope you're enjoying it - do please write and tell me your thoughts when you've had a chance to read it!

Meanwhile, I was saddened to hear the other day that the celebrated musicologist Maynard Solomon has died, aged 90. I have admired his writings for…

It's arrived!

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

Here it is! The first copies are in. Yesterday they sent me a couple of boxfuls so I can do the necessaries for those of you who've pledged for a signed copy. It looks splendid: a chunky paperback with a cover image that should hopefully be recognisable to anyone who's heard of Beethoven and that allows the book to do more or less what it says on the tin. Release…

Nights in the garden of panic

Thursday, 10 September 2020


Dear friends and supporters,

You've probably received a message from Unbound announcing that IMMORTAL has gone to press. So there we are: done, dusted and ready to rock. People have been asking how I feel, expecting "great", "thrilled", "proud" and "let's PARTAAY...except we can't..." .

The reality is that I'm scared witless.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who, throughout this…

Rage over a lost...Hungarian Rondo?

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

You're probably familiar with a Beethoven stand-alone piano piece usually known as "Rage Over A Lost Penny". It is published as his Op. 129. I'm attaching a video in which we can follow the sheet music while listening.

Of course it has nothing to do with a lost coin, whether penny or florin. The only reason we think it has is...Anton Schindler. Yes, it's good old…

Witschapp doc?

Monday, 10 August 2020

(I know, I know, I couldn't resist it...)

Dear friends and supporters,

Today has brought one of those infuriating Things That Happen Sometimes. It is the deadline for returning the corrected proofs of IMMORTAL. Would you be able to sleep if it's 30 degrees plus and you have a few hours left to perfect 125,000 words that will probably be sitting on someone's shelf long after you're pushing…

The proofs are in the pudding

Monday, 27 July 2020

The final edit is done! I am now waiting for the page proofs. This is a scary prospect, because it is too late to change anything substantial. I'm an inveterate tinkerer when it comes to revisions, and especially when so much of the hard graft has been done under tricky circumstances: in lockdown, like so many other people, I have found concentration tough, distraction everywhere, anxieties glooping…

Some wonderful endorsements for IMMORTAL - and last chance to be a patron!

Friday, 17 July 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

There are TWO (2) DAYS left in which you can get your name listed in IMMORTAL as a patron. Next week I shall send back the final edit (if you think I've been quiet recently, well, it's a lot of work) and the book gets turned into proofs. After that, only errors can change: no more additions. So if you have not yet put in a pledge and you want to be there, it is…

On this day, 1812...

Monday, 6 July 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

Here is the 'Letter to the Immortal Beloved', scrawled in pencil by an impassioned Ludwig van Beethoven on 6 July in a year that careful research eventually - after a very long time - traced to 1812. I took this photo in Vienna during my research trip last October. You can see his increasing haste, the relatively sedate beginning, the whirl of the conclusion (written…

Exciting news. No, REALLY exciting news

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

I know everyone says their news is exciting (and if it wasn't then it probably wouldn't be news at all). But what I have to report now is, I promise, seriously good.

GHOST VARIATIONS and ODETTE both came out on Unbound's Digital List - so-called, though it is also paperbacks - and I was delighted with how they went. IMMORTAL was signed up on the same basis. But Unbound…

Beethoven Matters: a discussion with the Royal Philharmonic Society and Garsington, online

Friday, 15 May 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

I hope you're keeping well and safe. Aren't we lucky that this has been the sunniest spring in...possibly ever?

As lockdown continues, sort of, vaguely, and as the government's award-winning communication strategy leaves nobody quite sure what we're meant to be doing or how, many of us are starting to think of new ways to function. Some of us are trying ideas we…

My top 5 books on Beethoven

Thursday, 23 April 2020

The website Five Books very kindly interviewed me about my top five choices of reading about Beethoven. It's a relatively in-depth discussion, if a bit rambly on my part (I didn't realise it would be a word-for-word transcript of the phone call), and aimed to identify some good material primarily for the general rather than academic music lover.

It seems to have gone down quite well, so here's…


Wednesday, 15 April 2020

I am trying to see "my" characters. Normally it's quite easy; and it's vital, because the better you can visualise them in your mind's eye, the more vividly they will come across (at least, this is the theory). I used to make a character chart for each person in a novel, setting down everything from their height and eye colour to their favourite objects, their preferences in food, the time they…

Off the wall in 10,000 steps

Friday, 3 April 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

It's Friday, apparently - not that I'd have guessed. The days are measured out in porridge, coffee, soup, tea and job-lots of 10,000 steps and by 9.30pm I am knackered and ready for a good long sleep. How do I normally manage, out at 3 or so performances a week, back at 11pm or later, navigating busy trains and the throngs of central London?

The 10,000 steps…

Springtime for Ludwig?

Friday, 27 March 2020

Under normal circumstances (whatever "normal" means any more), I'd have to pinch myself to make sure all this is real.

It's springtime. All week there hasn't been a cloud in the sky in which one could seek a silver lining. The magnolias are out and each day on my government-approved-exercise-walk I notice the new leaves have advanced another few bright millimetres. The cats are busy catting, aware…

My London diary, going live on my blog

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

I hope you are all keeping well, coping well and not feeling too anxious. It is a strange time and I've been hesitating to write updates because things change so rapidly, from day to day and sometimes hour to hour. 

I was hoping to invite you to some nice IMMORTAL concerts in late spring, but most of the planned events are being cancelled. In a way, this is positive…

Top Ten Beethoven Myths to Debunk Right Away

Friday, 6 March 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

In these weird times, it's good to try to maintain business as usual as far as humanly possible, so here is a Friday update. 

I spent a splendid afternoon yesterday talking to the academic and writer Leah Broad about IMMORTAL and other matters musical, an interview that will go out on her podcast series. Among a range of interesting questions that she put forward…

In portrait: how views of Beethoven transformed

Friday, 21 February 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

If you're not yet familiar with the website of the Beethovenhaus Bonn, do please take a look at it. This museum and research centre at the composer's birthplace is the world centre for work on him, and their digital library is a treasure trove, available to view wherever you may be. During the writing of IMMORTAL I have spent innumerable hours online, browsing their…

Happy Valentine’s Day, Luigi

Friday, 14 February 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

Happy Valentine's Day to you all, and may the love of music be with you for this and every day! 

Ludwig (or Luigi, as Therese calls him) van Beethoven's love story is bigger than most of us had thought, myself included; and there's a chance that the repercussions go deeper into his art than one might expect. For the occasion, then, Udiscovermusic, the webzine…

Beethoven Year is up and running

Friday, 24 January 2020

Dear friends and supporters,

Welcome to the first Friday Update of the new year. We slunk out of winter for a few weeks far, far away in the sun (we must have been the only Brits in town not going to the cricket...) and are now back and trying to come to terms with the dubious future that our home country is facing in 2020. There's a rock of strength to draw upon, though, and his name is Ludwig…

The real battle: truth versus entertainment

Friday, 13 December 2019

It's the morning after the night before. Happy Friday 13th, everyone. What sort of a place will the UK be three years from now? How the blazes did we get here? (And can Beethoven help?) (Above: I'm glad to see his study was even messier than mine.)

These concerns do have elements in common with IMMORTAL, which is why I'm devoting this week's Friday update to them.

One thing that Donald Trump…

BREAKING: The first draft is finished!

Friday, 29 November 2019

Dear friends and supporters,

Amazing news: the first draft of IMMORTAL is finished.

I've written 140,000 words in six months. That was the fun bit. 

It is more than ten years since I last wrote a first draft in such a short time, so it is a relief to find I can still do it. Ghost Variations was interrupted by bouts of intense stress, annoying illnesses and frustrating situations (until I…

How it all began

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Dear friends and supporters,

It occurs to me that in all these Friday updates I've never explained why I started on this crazy project, or why then. If you think I set myself a heck of a deadline, given that the Beethoven 250th year is nearly upon us, you are spot on. Several times a week (um, a day) I think I must be insane to try to make this work. Here, then, is the rationale.

A few years…

State of play...

Friday, 15 November 2019

Dear friends and supporters,

Welcome to the latest Friday update on IMMORTAL. News of the book continues to be excellent - funding now stands at 101 per cent and it is lovely to note that new pledges have arrived every single week since launch. Do note, please, that just because the 100 per cent mark has been reached, the fundraising drive is not actually finished. Any monies over and above the…

Is Beethoven actually trying to kill me?

Monday, 4 November 2019


(Above: the house in which Beethoven wrote the Heiligenstadt Testament in 1802. It was behind a bakery at the time.)

Dear friends and supporters,

This is your Friday update, except it's Monday. I came home from Vienna on Friday evening sick as the proverbial dog and barking like one. I was already unwell when I set off the previous Sunday; charging around the city, trying to see…

Great news! REALLY great news!

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Dear friends and supporters,

It's not Friday, but never mind - no day is too soon for this. Tonight (Saturday 26 October) IMMORTAL hit and surpassed its funding target. Yes, we are at 100%+ and I am absolutely over the moon. I can't thank you enough for helping to make this dream book into reality.


1. Unbound usually gives us a 90 day timeframe…

A reminder of what it's all for

Friday, 25 October 2019

(above: Leonard Bernstein at the Berlin Wall. Photo by Andreas Meyer-Schwickerath from

Dear friends and supporters,

It's been a strange week. I'm down with my second awful cold in a month, and it seems symbolic that I've lost my voice, since I'm also lost for words when I see the state of our politics at present. I'm escaping on Sunday for six days scouting Beethoven…

Immortal, Handel, Odette und, ach, Wien, mein Wien

Friday, 18 October 2019

Dear friends and supporters,

Welcome to our regular Friday update on IMMORTAL and its progress. If you're new to the IMMORTAL family, I extend to you the warmest welcome and biggest THANK YOU in south-west London! 

First, some numbers. This morning the crowdfunding stands at 90 per cent towards target, with 90 supporters. Some of you I've known all or most of my life, others I "met" on social…

When reality is stranger than fiction...

Friday, 11 October 2019

Dear friends and supporters,

Welcome to our Friday IMMORTAL update! Thank you again for all your kind contributions and faith in this book-in-the-making.

As things stand today we have 82 patrons who have brought the level to a tantalising 83% of funding target, 73 days after launch. This is fantastic, of course, and I am profoundly grateful to all of you for your help. But please may I ask…

Holey smoke

Friday, 4 October 2019

Dear friends and supporters,

Happy Friday and welcome to our regular IMMORTAL update. As things stand, we are 82% of the way towards target, which is fabulous - but please, keep 'em coming. Huge thanks to all of you for your generosity, moral support and faith in Beethoven!

Writing is going a little more slowly because of pressures of other (paid) work and the eternal distraction of the news…


Friday, 27 September 2019

Dear friends and supporters,

Happy Friday, and thank you again for all your pledges, messages and enthusiasm for IMMORTAL. We are 80% of the way towards the funding now - hooray! A reminder that until the end of Sunday 29 September there's a special offer of a 10% discount on pledges up to £100 (on this and other Unbound projects that are over 75% towards toward target) to help get the book…

Achtung! Special discount week!

Monday, 23 September 2019

Dear friends and supporters,

Here is a message from me, Ludwig on my t-shirt and Cosi the cat on my desk chair!

We are delighted to say that IMMORTAL is now 79% funded. Just 21% to go. TODAY AND TOMORROW, to help the nearly-there books to hit target, Unbound is offering 10% off pledges up to £100 on those that are currently in the last quarter of funding, including mine.

So, if you fancy…

Beethoven and...Robert and Clara Schumann

Friday, 13 September 2019

Today is the 200th anniversary of Clara Schumann's birth. I was looking for a portrait of her to put on my blog, JDCMB, and found that she had been painted as a young woman by the same artist who created the portrait of Beethoven that we use in the IMMORTAL introductory video: a gentleman named Granger. 

Here it is:

When Beethoven died, Clara was eight years old, and Robert Schumann sixteen…

Why IMMORTAL? Why fiction? Why now?

Friday, 6 September 2019

The other day I was in a London music library, trawling the Beethoven shelf. My goodness, but there's a lot of writing about him. Some of the books were published in the early part of the 20th century - topics such as, to paraphrase, "Beethoven is all about strength" (disconcerting in view of what was happening in the late 20s to 30s); others involve up-to-the-minute scholarship with tables of…

A composer for our testing times

Friday, 30 August 2019

At the moment, watching the heinous goings-on that pass for running our country, it would be easy to despair and to think that writing a novel about a 19th-century composer is a futile distraction. Fortunately, though, our composer is Beethoven - and there is no better music to bolster idealism, determination and resilience than he. 

Have a listen to his Egmont Overture, played at the Proms…

FIDELIO rising

Friday, 23 August 2019

With the Beethoven 250th anniversary coming up next year, just about every opera company I can think of is preparing to stage Fidelio, and plentiful orchestras are planning concert performances. It is the only opera Beethoven wrote - or at least, the only one he completed.

He started another, earlier, entitled Vestas Feuer, set in ancient Rome. The libretto was by Schikaneder (of The Magic…

Did he really?

Friday, 16 August 2019

Here's a little truism for a Friday lunchtime. Our sheer reverence towards the great composers of the past sometimes interferes with our understanding of their work. Occasionally it even affects performances of them. Do you agree?

Last year I undertook a project for BBC Music Magazine, comparing recordings of Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata and choosing the "best" (I use inverted commas with…

Flying start, barefoot

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Dear friends and supporters,

Thank you so much for your generous pledges! IMMORTAL is off to a flying start - 28 per cent funded after just five days - and I couldn't be happier. (Well, I could if it was 100 per cent, but y'know... this is really good.) It's incredibly encouraging and I value the moral support as much as the actual £ - because it means that you want this book, which means I…

Publication date: October 2020
122% funded
156 backers