Happy Birthday, Ludwig van Beethoven

Actually, no one is postive when Beethoven was born.  He was baptized on December 17, 1770 in Bonn,  in what is now Germany, and his birthday is thought to be December 16, 1770.

Beethoven was a bonafide musical genius who gave us some of our best-known classical music and who ironically went deaf later in life.  His Ninth Symphony, perhaps his most famous work, debuted well after he’d lost his hearing.

Why did he go deaf?  One theory was he was treated with mercury as medication for syphilis. (In the 1990s,  a lock of Beethoven’s hair was tested, but no trace of mercury was found.)

How was he able to compose after his hearing loss?   One account described how he could make out faint sounds by clenching a stick in his teeth and holding it against his piano’s keyboard.  In any event, he was still incredibly productive.

As might be expected, his deafness left him depressed, feeling isolated, and afraid he was being taken advantage of.  He died on March 26th 1827 after a cold  complicated other health problems that had plagued him all his life.

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: Portrait bust of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), German composer and pianist. One of the most influential western composers whose music bridged the Classical and Romantic periods. Musician (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1754: Portrait bust of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), German composer and pianist. One of the most influential western composers whose music bridged the Classical and Romantic periods. Musician (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

An excellent biography of Beethoven can be found at http://www.lvbeethoven.com/Bio/BiographyLudwig.html.  A birthday announcement and dicussion of his hearing loss is at http://time.com/4152023/beethoven-birthday/?xid=newsletter-brief

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