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Beethoven beyond deafness

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

At the end of the 1790s, Beethoven felt the first symptoms of what was to be his great tragedy: deafness. The intermittent weakening of his hearing became more pronounced in 1800, and in 1802 the diagnosis came as a verdict: Beethoven knew he was losing his hearing irretrievably - it would take a few more years before the deafness was complete, and despite his handicap, the pianist would perform in public for some time yet.

"Not even 30 years old, I had to realise that I was losing my hearing, which was disrupting my existence. I was too proud to confide my torment to friends and patrons; I did not want to be laughed at. I moved to Heiligenstadt, not far from Vienna, and tried to improve my health with thermal baths. They made me try everything from bathing in the Danube to inserting brass trumpets in my ears to perceive sounds better. Nothing worked.

When I looked at the bell tower outside my house, and did not hear the sound, I knew that I would soon lose my hearing completely... The real, inexplicable miracle was that I possessed an impressive creative energy that kept me going, despite everything. It was the following years that were the most fertile in terms of creativity.

Deafness had led me to grasp destiny by the throat. My inner chaos spilled over into my furiously scribbled music. It was the time of several great symphonies, quartets and sonatas. The music was always in my head. I couldn't hear a single note... Yet, I kept creating. By sheer force of will, I seemed to be reborn. I often took refuge in nature, in the countryside behind my house, to compose my music in peace and in complete solitude, far from the human beings I could hardly tolerate anymore..."

The genius Beethoven was sure that, as an artist, he had a mission to accomplish in the service of present and future humanity.

This time of physical and moral struggle corresponds to a period of maturity and accomplishment, during which works of great breath were created, he composed true masterpieces during his struggle with deafness.

By Giorgia, author of the tour "Beethoven. Beyond".

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