by Daniel Hathaway
By 2020, the 250th anniversary year of Beethoven’s birth in 1770, you’d think that every aspect of the composer’s life would already have been minutely examined by multiple scholars. Not quite so. There’s the issue of the composer’s hearing problems, which began to affect him as early as 1798 and progressed to the point in May of 1824 that some eyewitnesses at the debut of the Ninth Symphony reported that Beethoven was oblivious to the ardent applause that greeted the performance.
Kent State University musicology professor Theodore Albrecht, who is deep into translating relatively unexplored Beethoven documents, has turned up some surprises. Among them is the suggestion that Beethoven could still hear — if not well — at the premiere of the Ninth. “All the stone-deaf Beethoven stories go out the window,” the scholar said in a recent telephone interview.
That and other discoveries have come to light in the course of Albrecht’s current research project: translating Beethoven’s 139 “Conversation Books” for the first-ever English edition. [Read more…]