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Beethoven has always been one of my favor composers. I have heard a lot about him. I used to go to the opera house in Manhattan each time they had something about Beethoven. I listen to his music from NPR at nights. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to fully research this musician. It is just something about his music that I admire, especially symphony # 5 (Emperor Concerto, 1809). I never knew what it is about, but I know that I like it. It is a privilege to finally have the opportunity to research Beethoven. I like classical music. In fact, this is the reason why I took this class. In this research, I will give a brief illustration about Beethoven’s life, his works, deafness, sickness, and his death.
According to Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire, 2006, Ludwig van Beethoven was a composer and a musician. He was born in December 16, 1770 in Bonn, Germany. He later died in March 26, 1827 in Vienna, Austria. Beethoven was born in a family that was musician. His grandfather was a musical director at a court in which his father was a singer there. In fact, Beethoven has the same name as his grandfather. Therefore, it was in his genes to be a musician. Consequently, the source stated that his family began to train him to be a court musician as well.
Beethoven became a composer not just by his own will but, by following his family’s foot step. According to World Eras 2002, (Vol. 9) his parents wanted him to start music lessons at the age of 4. He rejected that idea. World Eras 2002, (Vol. 9) also stated that Beethoven did not have any motivation for music in his early childhood. Nevertheless, he took music classes and proceeded with his duties at the court as his parents had wanted him to.
At the court, Beethoven had many duties and responsibilities as he proceeded with his musical professional there. His responsibilities included to play viola in the orchestra and organ in the chapel. For opera performances, his job was to accompany rehearsals and coaches singers.
Beethoven’s passions for music began to develop. As a result, in 1787, Beethoven decided to advance his career. Consequently, he went to Vienna, Austria to study music with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Within a short period of time of being there, he founded himself in an unpredictable situation. He had been informed that his mother was ill. For that reason, it was essential for him to return to Bonn due to his mother’s illness.
At the age of seventeen, Beethoven got greater responsibilities then just learning about music. He had to grow-up fast and become an adult. World Eras 2002 stated that after the dead of his mother, his father became an alcoholic. As a result, he had to take care of his two younger brothers. Nevertheless, Beethoven never let any of his obstacles impair him from becoming what he wanted to be in his career. By the age of twenty one, he produced two cantatas, three piano sonatas, and three piano quartets (piano and strings). He was on his way to become the greatest musician and composer of all time.
In November 1792, Beethoven left Bonn again and went to Vienna. He stayed there for the rest of his life. In Vienna, he worked as a pianist. He gave piano and composition lessons. He conducted and performed his music at private and public concerts. He sold his composition to publishers in Vienna, Germany, later in England and Paris as well. He also composed on commission too.
According to World Eras 2002, by 1795, Beethoven was the world most popular composer and pianist in Vienna. His concerts were very financially successful, which help him to tour other cities in Europe as well. He sold a lot of his pieces to publishers. People were even competing to buy his works. World Eras 2002, confirmed that at one point, Beethoven didn’t have to negotiate for prices any more. He just had to say his prices and that was it. People would purchase his music for whatever prices.
Beethoven had a passion for what he did. He went behind financial success. His enthusiasm was not just about money. He was obsessed with his music. He was able to compose pieces after pieces. World Eras 2002 stated that Beethoven lived completely for his music. He would produce three to four pieces at the same time.
In addition to Beethoven’s passion for music, he also had an obsession for drinking alcohol. According to the Macmillan Encyclopedia, Beethoven was born in an alcoholic family. His father and his grandmother both died from alcohol. So, for Beethoven, I think drinking alcohol was a genetic behavior for him. In Beethoven’s later years of life, it is reported that he used to drink very heavily. He used to drink every single day. In fact, the article indicated that Beethoven would drink at least one bottle of wine with his diner. So, the drinking problem started to manifest itself by attacking Beethoven’s health. Consequently, his doctor advised him to stop drinking or drink in moderation. However, Beethoven never stopped. Therefore, his health was at risk. He started to get sick.
Unfortunately, Beethoven health started to be his biggest enemy. He was chronically ill. World Eras 2002 also stated that Beethoven was diagnosed with gastrointestinal disorder, respiratory disorder, headaches, and rheumatism. The worst part of his sickness was becoming deaf. For a musician, I think it is a major obstacle. Ludwig van Beethoven was a determine person even deafness couldn’t stop him from what he loves to do. In fact, this is when his music was at its best. Yes, he had to wear hearing aids, but that did not affect him until he got to the point of no return. This is when he went completely death. His hearing never got any better even when he tried home remedies that friends had suggested to him. By the time he conducted his ninth symphony in 1824, he was totally deaf.
The obstacle of been deaf and been a conductor was overwhelmed for Beethoven. Nevertheless, he managed to continue his work. The Macmillan Encyclopedia 2003 reported that Beethoven used to place his ear near the piano when he was playing so that he can sense the vibration of different notes. Beethoven hearing problems started when he was 28 years old. Sadly, the problem got worst and left him completely deaf by the age of 44. In the medical field, hearing loss or deafness can be due to several aspects such as loud noise, loud music, and genetic disorder, injury to the ears or the head. However, in Beethoven’s case, Medical Historians were not certain of how Beethoven became deaf. Some article such at Deafness and Hearing Loss believes that it was due to nerve damages and damages done to the bones in his ears.
By the time Beethoven conducted his ninth symphony, he was totally deaf. According to a lot of people, the ninth symphony was one of his greatest successes of work. According to The Macmillan Encyclopedia 2003, His symphony # 9 was a combination of his work from early 1793 and late 1823. He combined these pieces to create a master piece. This master piece took him almost 6 years to finish. During the performance of this symphony, he was never aware of the audience’s reaction. In fact, one of his soloists had to make him turn to face the audience so that he can see all the applauses from the audience. The audience was mesmerized by his work. This was in fact Beethoven’s last piece of work.
Beethoven suffered with many illnesses before he died. One of the major medical problems that he had, which was visible to the public eyes was distended abdomen. Abdominal distention is the swollen of the abdomen that make it big and hard. So, Beethoven was eager to seek for help. Consequently, he went to extensive operations to relieve the fluid out. However, none of those operations were successful. On March 24, 1827, Beethoven went into a coma. By March 26, he was death. According to Francois Martin Mai (2008), some believe the cause of his death was due to liver disease. Others believed it was lead poisoning, syphilis, infectious with hepatitis, and the list goes on.
According to Beethoven’s autopsy, which was done by Dr. Johann Wagner on March 27, 1827, it was understood that the composer died of cirrhotic and shrunken liver. According to Medical Surgical Nursing 2013, cirrhotic is a disease of the liver. It is due to chronic reaction to hepatic inflammation and necrosis. The book stated that the most common causes for cirrhosis are hepatitis C, D, alcoholism, and biliary obstruction. Nevertheless, people were still debating that his liver damage was due to heavy drinking of alcohol. Back then, alcohol was believed to be contaminated with heavy metals. However, many researchers today belied that Beethoven died of sarcoidosis.
Sarcoidosis is a granulomatous disorder of unknown cause that can affect any organ of the body, Medical-Surgical Nursing 2013. According to Dr. Tom Palferman a rheumatologist and an amateur cellist, who reported in the Sunday Times, this is the cause of Beethoven’s death. The newspaper stated that Dr. Tom had spent over 10 years researching the cause of Beethoven’s death before he came-up with this diagnosis. He believes that Beethoven died of sarcoidosis disease, which affected hearing and destroyed the liver. As a nursing student, I do see the correlations between the two factors. However, In Dr.’s Tom report, there are no evidences to persuade me enough as of these two are the only final facts. There are several types of sarcoidosis such as pulmonary, occult, verrucous, nodular, and fibroblastic sarcoidosis. He never stated what types of sarcoidosis he found in Beethoven. Moreover, sarcoidosis always has some kind of effect on the lungs. The patient might have minor signs and symptoms such as coughing, but there will be something of that nature due to the lymph nodes that the disease attacks. In fact, any system of the body has the potential to suffer the effect of sarcoidosis.
In addition, chemical study of Beethoven hair tends to direct people that he had died of lead poisoning. According to PR newswire October 17, 2000, a group of researchers from Hearth Research Institution conducted a four year research to solve the mystery of Beethoven’s death. The article stated that the researchers had found high level of concentrated leads in eight strands of Beethoven’s hair. The American Beethoven enthusiasts purchased Beethoven’s hair in 1994 through the Sotheby’s in Lyndon for that purpose. The organization proceeded by hiring a high qualify doctor by the name of Dr. William Walsh for the analyses. Dr Walsh was also the director of the Health Research Institution where the analysis was conducted.
The result of this analysis was about to become a huge matter in the history of the cause of Beethoven’s death. In fact, Dr Walsh decided that a press conference was the best way to announce the results. As he proceeded with the conference, he started by informing the public of the signs and symptoms that Beethoven had prior to his death. According to independent analysis, it is proven that Beethoven death is due to plumbism. Plumbism is another term for lead poisoning. But, the analysis did not believe that lead poisoning was the cause of Beethoven’s deafness.
On the other hand, some believe that lead poison was never a cause of his death. According to the New York Time, May 29, 2010, lead poison experts from Mount Sinai school of Medicine in New York tested Beethoven’s skull. The skull that they tested happened to be the same piece that has been tested in several occasions. The researcher, Dr. Andrew C. Todd report showed that Beethoven skull had no more lead than in the average person’s skull.
He stated that Beethoven was not exposed to long-term high level of lead. He concluded that Beethoven did not die of lead poisoning. In fact, Dr. Todd suggested that people should stop looking at lead poisoning as a major factor in Beethoven’s death.
So, the question remains, what really killed Beethoven? Regardless of what killed him, Beethoven remains one of the most famous and influential musician and composers of all time. The role that he plays in music can never be replaced. He still plays a crucial figure in the transition between classical and romantic eras in western art of music today. I like Beethoven because his works represents the symbol of strengths, courage, and power. How can you compose music when you can’t hear it? This is the power of faith in him. It was unfortunate that he had to die prematurely. Nevertheless, his works will live for evermore.
Beethoven was not perfect. He had faults just like other people. As human beings, this is what we do. Unfortunately, some of us choose the wrong path of life without thinking of the consequences. The reasons why people do those thing sometime is unpredictable. A lot of researchers will continue to predict why Beethoven used to drink heavily, why he did a lot of the things he did. But, no one will never really know the true behind any of those things.
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