Beethoven Variations is absolutely wonderful! Steeped in the music, and in aspects of his life we maybe never think about – a fascinating summation of Beethoven!’

– Sean Rafferty, In Tune, Radio 3

‘My Beethoven’ column from Ruth, in Gramophone, June 2020

Ruth Padel is an award-winning British poet, author, wildlife conservationist and musician. She has published twelve poetry collections, seven works of non-fiction and a wildlife novel. She is Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Professor of Poetry at King’s College London. Her latest book is Beethoven Variations – Poems on a Life.

Beethoven Variations, Poems on a Life

Beethoven Variations is an adventure in poetry and biography, a journey into the essence of creativity and its power to overcome suffering, and an exploration of one of the most creative artists who ever lived.

Tracking Beethoven through Germany, Vienna and Silesia, Ruth draws on his diaries, letters, memoirs, and above all his music, in poems on his life, his music, and its effect on us all. She threads her story with fragments of her own life in music-making, on the viola, Beethoven’s instrument as a child.

Ruth follows her poems with a succinct prose biography and a list of his major works, so you can see where the music you love fits in his life.

Buy from


Selected praise for Beethoven Variations

‘Poetry, biography, music and memoir collide in this wonderful collection. A deeply personal and lyrical journey through the composer’s life and a tender and evocative portrait of the man and his music – and the profound ways it affects listeners and performers.’ – Tatler, Best Books 2020.

‘What a wonderful and unusual idea, to write a biography of Beethoven, interlaced with fragments of autobiography, in poetry. Ruth Padel writes with true passion; her love for, and understanding of, the man and his music shine through each poem.’ – Steven Isserlis, cellist

‘Beethoven’s music encompasses the entire blinding spectrum of human thought and emotion. Ruth Padel’s poems capture that uncontainable spirit to an astounding degree.’ – Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker

‘Generous, painful, tender, gorgeously lyrical. With precision, heart-breaking beauty and lyric insight, Ruth Padel performs a miracle: Beethoven comes alive before us.’ – Poet Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic

Selected listening

Launching Beethoven Variations with Ray Antrobus and Anthony Anaxagorou in London Review Bookshop, February 2020

The room where Beethoven was born, in Bonn, Germany.

Upcoming events

Cancelled, until – for the moment – July 19th and the Proms.

19 July

A reading for the Proms before a performance of the Eroica Symphony

| September

16 September
Ruth will read from the updated paperback version of her book on migration, We Are All from Somewhere Else, at St Luke’s Church, Queens Park, for refugee charity Salusbury World

| October

3-4 October
A reading in Holywell Music Room, at Oxford Chamber Music Festival

16-18 October
Readings at a music weekend, structured round Beethoven Variations, at the Music Camp where Ruth’s parents met

30 October
A reading at Hostry Festival, Norfolk

| December

3 December
A reading at Aspect Foundation New York with Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas

Previous Books – Poetry

About Poetry