People Target #16

Ludwig Van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (December 16, 1770 to March 26, 1827) was a German pianist and composer widely considered the greatest of all time, whose innovative compositions combined vocals and instruments, widening the scope of sonata, symphony, concerto and quartet. He is the crucial transitional figure connecting the Classical and Romantic ages of Western music. Beethoven’s personal life was marked by a struggle against deafness, and some of his most important works were composed during the last 10 years of his life, when he was quite unable to hear. He died at the age of 56. Beethoven revealed in a heart-wrenching 1801 letter to his friend Franz Wegeler, "I must confess that I lead a miserable life. For almost two years I have ceased to attend any social functions, just because I find it impossible to say to people: I am deaf. If I had any other profession, I might be able to cope with my infirmity; but in my profession it is a terrible handicap." At times driven to extremes of melancholy by his affliction, Beethoven described his despair in a long and poignant note that he concealed his entire life. An autopsy revealed that the immediate cause of death was post-hepatitic cirrhosis of the liver. The autopsy also provided clues to the origins of his deafness. While his quick temper, chronic diarrhea and deafness are consistent with arterial disease, a competing theory traces Beethoven's deafness to contracting typhus in the summer of 1796. For a variety of reasons that included his crippling shyness and unfortunate physical appearance, Beethoven never married or had children. He was, however, desperately in love with a married woman named Antonie Brentano. Despite his extraordinary output of beautiful music, Beethoven was lonely and frequently miserable throughout his adult life. Short-tempered, absent-minded, greedy and suspicious to the point of paranoia, Beethoven feuded with his brothers, his publishers, his housekeepers, his pupils and his patrons. In one illustrative incident, Beethoven attempted to break a chair over the head of Prince Lichnowsky, one of his closest friends and most loyal patrons.