Tuesday, 21 January 2020
The real Beethoven. A badly-dressed slob? (Sorry no history at all of sign language and he had no time for disabled he thought inferior).
Beethoven was a very complex man and lived a very difficult life, struggling with increasing hearing loss, frequent physical ailments. strained relations with his brothers and difficulties with the care and protection of his nephew Carl and legal disputes over this. His early life was very difficult, and he may have been beaten by his demanding father, who seeing his great talent, imagined he might be another Mozart and forced him to practice the piano endlessly.
He was not the most pleasant personality you could imagine. He was gruff, irritable, and not the easiest kind of guy to get along with. He was the Oscar Madison of music; his living quarters were extremely messy and he wasn’t very prompt in emptying his chamber pot, most likely because he was so involved with his music.
Beethoven dressed so shabbily he was once arrested in a park for supposedly being a vagrant. He never married but is reported to have been involved with certain women of the Viennese aristocracy, although the exact details of his love life remain sketchy. The mystery of his “Immortal Beloved “ has never been solved. He was not exactly the kind of guy a young lady would like her parents to meet! He is said to have frequently been ill-mannered and uncouth. He had many friends, including music-loving members of the Viennese aristocracy who supported him, but he was easily angered and would give them the cold shoulder if said or did something he disliked.
Beethoven was very concerned about his money, and had frequent difficulties with music publishers over payments. Erratic, mercurial, and highly unpredictable come to mind. The composer was afflicted with a pairing of terrible misfortunes, his traumatic upbringing and loss of hearing. Always seeking an escape from a seemingly tragic destiny, he stood in defiance against every force that threatened to tame his fiery fighting spirit, a spirit that spawned great music and a miserable man.
Charmingly charismatic one moment and boorishly arrogant the next, Beethoven lived his life as an absentminded, unkempt slob in the most squalid and abhorrent of conditions. Piles of rotting, uneaten food sat right next to his scores. His eccentric habit of pouring a bucket of water over his head did not please one of his countless landlords, who was left with no choice but to seal his floor with asphalt. Banging on his piano during night hours certainly did not help matters. His appearance was in such tatters in later life that he was mistaken by police as a tramp and arrested.
All this, of course, is a sharp antidote to the transcendental immortality of his music, arguably the crowning achievement of Western art in the early 19th century. Should we simply devour the music and overlook the man? Never, for music and man are inseparable, let us accept him as a figure of unsurpassed artistic genius whose mortal, imperfect existence is nonetheless undistinguished from that of common humankind.