Beethoven and his music,
by MARGARET WILLSON
It is 1810. A middle-aged and almost completely deaf man walks the streets of Vienna. He walks for endless periods of time. Out into the countryside, he wanders past the streams and birds he adores but can no longer hear. He strolls along as the wind rustles the leaves and branches of the trees high above him and does not notice this soft breeze until it becomes a thunderstorm. He carelessly trudges on without acknowledging the gathering ominous clouds, the winds picking up in ferocity, until he feels the first drop of rain fall from the black sky. It hits the top of his ear; he stops, and waits, while the droplet runs down the rim of his ear and drips from his lobe to the dirt road. A downpour, now, drenches his black suit and flattens his untamed graying hair. Un-phased, he continues walking. Carriages conveying noblemen and women drive by, doubtless on the way to some late afternoon gala. One stops as a young man, a man of some importance, shouts from the window that old fools should carry umbrellas while on their constitutionals, 'or, if you're not a fool, you're a madman and should be locked away!'
Had Ludwig van Beethoven been capable of hearing the remark he probably would have shouted back something like; 'better a madman and a genius than a noble who never learned to wipe his own ass.'
As it was, Beethoven walked on.
Detail from an 1823 painting of Beethoven by Waldmuller
He had a great attraction to the countryside and would habitually leave the city for long walks. However, many times during these walks, particularly as his hearing worsened, he would start loudly humming a tune of a work he was currently composing. Since this music was obviously not yet composed, no one could recognize it and everyone that passed him assumed he was just a crazy old man.
Copyright © 3 January 2008
Margaret Willson, New Jersey, USA