29 June 2009

Mozart aside, Ludwig van Beethoven is the most famous classical composer of the western world.
Beethoven is remembered for his powerful and stormy compositions, and for continuing to compose and conduct even after he began to go deaf at age 28. The ominous four-note beginning to his Fifth Symphony --bom bom bom bommmmm-- is one of the most famous moments in all of music.
Beethoven's first music teacher was his father. A traditional belief concerning Johann is that he was a harsh instructor, and that the child Beethoven, "made to stand at the keyboard, was often in tears" .His father was said to be a violent and intemperate man, who returned home late at night much worse for drink and dragged young Ludwig from his bed in order to "beat" music lessons into the boy's sleepy head. There are also stories of his father forcing him to play his violin for the amusement of his drinking cronies. Despite these and other abuses - which might well have persuaded as lesser person to loathe the subject - the young Beethoven developed a sensitivity and vision for music.
He had other local teachers as well: the court organist van den Eeden, Tobias Friedrich Pfeiffer (a family friend, who taught Beethoven piano), and a relative, Franz Rovantini (violin and viola).

Beethoven was born probably on 16 December 1770, and baptized the next day, he died in Vienna on March 26, 1827.
Around 1796, Beethoven began to lose his hearing.He suffered a severe form of tinnitus, a "ringing" in his ears that made it hard for him to perceive and appreciate music; he also avoided conversation. The cause of Beethoven's deafness is unknown, but it has variously been attributed to syphilis,lead poisoning,typhus,auto-immune disorder (such as systemic lupus erythematosus), and even his habit of immersing his head in cold water to stay awake. The oldest explanation, from the autopsy of the time, is that he had a "distended inner ear" which developed lesions over time.
Russell Martin has shown from analysis done on a sample of Beethoven's hair that there were alarmingly high levels of lead in Beethoven's system. High concentrations of lead can lead to bizarre and erratic behaviour, including rages. Another symptom of lead poisoning is deafness. In Beethoven's time, lead was used widely without an understanding of the damage which it could cause: for sweetening wine, in finishes on porcelain, and even in medicines. The investigation of this link was detailed in the book, Beethoven's Hair: An Extraordinary Historical Odyssey and a Scientific Mystery Solved. However, while the likelihood of lead poisoning is very high, the deafness associated with it seldom takes the form that Beethoven exhibited.
Beethoven's hearing loss did not prevent his composing music, but it made concerts—lucrative sources of income—increasingly hard.

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