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Creative paradoxes

Donald Macleod on BBC Radio 3 has been presenting an excellent programme on the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of a composer widely acclaimed as the greatest of all was that from 1814 he was totally deaf.

Not only could he not hear his music but it’s quite likely that sounds interfered too.

Notwithstanding this he composed post-deafness his 9th Symphony and string quartets.

You might have thought that, understandably, anxiety would creep into his music but the works I have mentioned – and we can include his Missa Solennis too – are totally inspiring and epic.

Oddly enough he expressed himself in words in his Heiligenstadt (a town outside Vienna where he lived) Testament, a letter to his brothers in which suicide was contemplated.

There was a second letter to an unnamed lover. Both were discovered with his will.

I searched for a comparison with the art world and Alice Mansfield cited Van Gogh.

His problems were more self-inflicted but after being institutionalised in the St. Remy asylum his output was prolific.

More than that, his turbulent mood disorders were not reflected in his paintings.

His picture of blossom for his recently born nephew is the most serene of all his works.

Both these geniuses of the first and second half of the nineteenth century have left an extraordinary legacy in circumstances that would defeat lesser mortals.

About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts