Frequently Asked Questions about Beethoven

How did Beethoven go deaf?

No one knows. When they performed an autopsy on Beethoven, they discovered that the three small bones of the inner ear were fused together. Those bones were saved for many years, but their location is currently unknown. There is an unconfirmed theory that they were stolen from a museum in Vienna, taken to London, and were destroyed during a bombing raid in World War II.

When did Beethoven go deaf?

The first symptoms appeared in 1797-98 according to Beethoven himself. By 1817, when Beethoven was forty-six years old, he was functionally deaf, meaning that people had to write messages in order to effectively communicate. Even so, there are occasional report from his last decade in which people spoke to him and he understood. He was able to hear sounds in a muted way through bone convection (such as a timpani sound coming through a wooden floor).

Is it true his father beat him?

There is a fairly reliable report that Beethoven’s father forced him to practice the piano in the middle of the night for many hours at a time. In general, however, tales of Beethoven’s abuse are much exaggerated.

Who was the Immortal Beloved?

In 1812, Beethoven wrote a passionate letter to an unnamed woman he addressed as his “Immortal Beloved.” Many authors and historians have made claims as to identity, but no definite answer can be given. Currently, the three leading candidates are Antonie Brentano, Josephine Brunswick, and Bettina Brentano.

Was Beethoven an alcoholic?

Not by European standards of the day. In his later years, he is known to have consumed a bottle of wine with dinner. It is true that, in his later years, his consumption of alcohol affected his health, and his doctors urged either more moderation or for him to stop.

Was Beethoven black?

Many people in the African-American community claim that there has been a conspiracy on the part of European-Americans to conceal Beethoven’s alleged black heritage. The theory that he was black is based on the fact that Beethoven’s ancestors came from the Flemish region of northern Europe that was invaded and ruled by the Spanish. Since the Moors were part of Spanish culture, it is possible that Moors were part of the invasion. This theory, however, is not based on genealogical studies of Beethoven’s past, which are available to the public. Rather, it is based on the assumption that one of Beethoven’s ancestors had a child out of wedlock. Another part of this theory is that Beethoven was given the nickname “Spaniard” as a child because he had a dark complexion by European standards. However, it is important to note that no one called Beethoven black or a moor during his lifetime, and the Viennese were keenly aware both of Moors and of mulattos, such as George Bridgetower, the famous violinist who collaborated with Beethoven.

Why do portraits of Beethoven make him look unhappy or angry?

Most of Beethoven’s later portraits were based on his life mask of 1812. When a life mask is taken, a person must lie absolutely still, which means no smiling. Similarly, when one had his portrait painted in those days, men were not usually portrayed with smiles, but rather in more formal poses.

Did Beethoven have syphilis?

There is no evidence that Beethoven had syphilis. Most medical doctors who have studied Beethoven’s medical history agree that he had no symptoms of the disease.

What was the cause of Beethoven’s death?

No one knows; many different theories have been proposed. The autopsy report says that he had dropsy, which is the early 19th-century term for edema ("swelling due to an accumulation of tissue fluid," as defined in Peter Davies' Beethoven in Person, 235).