Beethoven’s disability forms a large part of our concept of him as the quintessential Romantic Hero, as it is a tragic flaw he must overcome to produce his great Art.
The above clip [from Mr. Holland's Opus] mentions two stories about Beethoven’s deafness that have circulated for centuries. In one, Beethoven waves his arms at the podium, oblivious to the fact that the orchestra cannot keep up. In the other, he saws off the legs of his piano so he can feel the vibrations through the floor.
Neither of these stories is true.
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Also, I am very grateful for the input from Robin Wallace of Baylor University. He is currently writing an entire book devoted to Beethoven myths, and he was generous enough to share some of his drafts with me. He goes into more depth than I’m able to on this blog, so if this topic interests you, please check out his work!
I’m currently working on another off-blog essay about the cliché of making classical music look "cool," and I’m expecting that to be published next week. In the meantime, please enjoy the other wonderful essays on The Avid Listener, and keep sending me suspect links as you find them.