Musicologist: Beethoven wasn’t totally deaf

Early in this year’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, musicologist Theodore Albrecht of Kent State University drops a bombshell: Beethoven wasn’t entirely deaf.

Examining “conversation books,” in which visitors wrote comments and questions to which Beethoven would respond verbally, Albrecht finds that, until shortly before his death in 1827, the composer’s hearing was severely impaired but he could still hear in his left ear.

“Not only was Beethoven not completely deaf at the premiere of his Ninth Symphony in May 1824, he could hear, although increasingly faintly, for at least two years afterwards, probably through the last premiere that he would supervise, his String Quartet in B-flat, Op. 130, in March 1826,” Albrecht tells The Guardian’s Dalya Alberge:

Albrecht, who is editing the conversation books and translating them to English for the first time, says the contents will be “a game-changer” in assessments of Beethoven’s life and work.

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