How Beethoven drank himself to death
He was the definition of a tortured genius who fought his deafness to compose symphonies he couldn’t properly hear.
And the unfortunate Beethoven also appears to have had hepatitis B and a genetic risk of liver disease, meaning his love of wine may not have been the sole cause of his death.
Geneticists have reconstructed the medical history of Ludwig van Beethoven, who died in 1827, using clues from five verified strands of hair.
The composer enjoyed a drink so much that his last words, after receiving a gift of Rhenish wine on his deathbed, are: “Too bad! Too late!’
But the new findings that he was infected with the liver-damaging virus hepatitis B and had a genetic predisposition to liver problems suggest his death from probable cirrhosis of the liver may not have been solely due to alcoholism.
The German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven was born in Bonn in 1770 and died in Vienna in 1827 at the age of 56
Scientists have analyzed five locks of Beethoven’s hair to sequence the amazing composer’s genome
A widely held theory that Beethoven became deaf from lead used to sweeten wine in the 19th century may have been disproved by the new study.
This theory was largely based on a lock of hair thought to have belonged to the composer, which the new analysis now suggests came from a woman of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.
And there’s a new exciting theory about the composer, as genetic analysis found an illegitimate child in his family tree.
This finding of modern relatives of Beethoven whose genes have been sequenced is imprecise and may have happened as late as seven generations after Beethoven (SUBS – please keep).
But it’s excitingly possible that the composer himself was the product of an illicit affair and only a half-brother to his sibling Kaspar, although far more research would be needed to prove this (SUBS – please keep that last part).
In 1802 Beethoven asked his doctor to describe his illness and make these notes public.
The great man’s health and cause of death have since been debated, but previously without the benefit of genetic research.
Tristan Begg, lead author of the study from the University of Cambridge, said: “Most people who do genetic testing for fun, myself included, will find that there is nothing wrong with them, they are related to everyone they thought they were, and the results are not surprising.
“But in this study, we had intriguing results in every branch we looked at, from disease risk to pedigree.
“That was very exciting after eight years.”
The Moscheles Castle certified by the study with the inscription of the former owner Ignaz Moscheles
The eight-year study, published in the journal Current Biology, analyzed eight hair samples attributed to Beethoven.
These have been confirmed to be by the same person – almost certainly the composer.
Researchers examining a total of 18 feet (555 cm) of Beethoven’s hair found no genetic cause for his famous deafness, which began with tinnitus and loss of high frequencies in his twenties and led to him being largely deaf by 1818.
There was also no clear genetic cause for the “miserable” abdominal pain and diarrhea that plagued the genius from his early twenties, although celiac disease and lactose intolerance can be ruled out and the composer had a certain genetic protection against irritable bowel syndrome.
In the summer of 1821 Beethoven had the first of at least two attacks of jaundice, a symptom of liver disease.
Cirrhosis has long been considered the leading cause of death by age 56.
Researchers uncovered a number of genetic risk factors for liver disease and evidence of hepatitis B infection in the months leading up to the composer’s final illness.
Mr Begg said: “We hope that by making Beethoven’s genome publicly available to researchers, and perhaps adding more authenticated locks to the initial chronological series, remaining questions about his health and genealogy can one day be answered.”
Ludwig van Beethoven: The defining figure in the history of Western music
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer and pianist who is arguably the defining figure in the history of Western music
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer and pianist who is arguably the defining figure in the history of Western music.
Ludwig van Beethoven was born in December 1770, but no one knows exactly what date. He was baptized on the 17th.
The earliest recorded piece Beethoven composed is a set of nine piano variations composed in 1782.
Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792, where he met influential composers such as Haydn and began composing in earnest.
In 1796 he suffered from tinnitus and lost his hearing.
Beethoven composed his Piano Sonata No. 14 (“Moonlight”) in 1802.
The Third Symphony, known as the “Eroica”, was completed in 1804.
It went on to redefine the symphony as a genre.
The opening motif of the 1808 Fifth Symphony is one of the most famous musical excerpts in history.
In the ‘middle period’ of Beethoven’s career he also composed piano works such as the Waldstein and Apassionata sonatas and his only opera, Fidelio, which underwent countless rewritings and revisions.
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the 1824 ‘Chorale’, is another work of his that has remained immensely popular.
It was the first time a composer used choral parts in a large symphony.
Illness and increasing deafness led to a decline in productivity towards the end of Beethoven’s life, but he nonetheless managed to produce important works such as his ‘Late Quartets’ of 1825, which were imaginative for the time.
Beethoven died in Vienna on March 26, 1827 after a long illness that was variously attributed to alcohol, hepatitis, cirrhosis and pneumonia.
Source: Classic FM
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