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Beethoven's Deafness

"Beethoven said, 'This is a beautiful piano. I got it as a gift from London. Look at the name!'" Ludwig Reelstab once recalled. "He pointed with his finger to the strip of wood above the keyboard. 'It is a wonderful present,' said Beethoven looking at me, 'and it has a beautiful tone,' he continued, turning toward the piano without taking his eyes off me. He struck a chord softly. Never will another chord pierce me to the quick with such sadness and heartbreak. He had played C major in the right hand and B natural in the bass; he looked at me steadily and repeated the false chord several times to let the mild tone of the instrument sound, and the greatest musician on earth could not hear the dissonance!"

[Beethoven once told Charles Neate (co-founder of the Royal Philharmonic Society) how he had become deaf: "I was once busy writing an opera... I had a very ill-tempered primo tenore to deal with. I had already written two grand airs to the same text, with which he was dissatisfied, and now a third, which, upon trial, he seemed to approve and took away with him. I thanked the stars that I was at length rid of him and sat down immediately to a work which I had laid aside for those airs and which I was anxious to finish. I had not been half an hour at my work when I heard a knock at my door which I immediately recognized as that of my primo tenore. I sprang up from my table under such an excitement of rage that as the man entered the room I threw upon the floor as they do on the stage, coming down upon my hands. When I arose I found myself deaf and have been so ever since. The physicians say the nerve is injured."]

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