I am halfway through listening to the 73 minutes (or 1 hour 13 minutes if you prefer) long Beethoven’s “Symphony No 9 in D minor” on YouTube. There is a story behind this and an article I am writing for a mainstream magazine on how I got to like classical music. The Beethoven story goes exactly like this…
Around 1796 in Vienna, the gifted composer Ludwig van Beethoven started to hear ringing in his ears. It was tinnitus, the sensation of hearing ringing, buzzing, hissing, chirping, whistling, or other sounds, which eventually led to the loss of his hearing.
In four years, with the deafness increasing, he wrote to his brothers. “I would have ended my life,” he explained. “It was only my art that held me back.”
Beethoven continued to write the music that he heard only in his head and on May 7, 1824, exactly 191 years ago, he conducted the première of his final composition. The title of this was “Symphony No. 9 in D Minor”.
He turned the pages and kept time for an orchestra and a choir he could not hear. When the symphony finished, Beethoven was unwittingly several measures behind and was still furiously conducting. The contralto had to approach him, stop him and turn him around so that he could see the audience on their feet, applauding. He wept.
You will have to wait a little longer to see the article because the magazine will need to publish it first.