Beethoven 250 years on …

What do Beethoven and Coronavirus have in common? Well it’s not popularity or birth year. It’s isolation. People all over the world have been forced into social isolation for their own good due to Coronavirus. Now after a couple of months, we are slowly returning to a ‘new kind of normal’ which means things like social distancing, limits on numbers of people in pubs, parents having to stay outside school gates (I reckon the kids love that one), having your temperature taken at random venues and so on, will remain in place indefinitely. Unfortunately coming out of isolation and moving into the ‘new normal’ has not stopped the Corona Moaners from whining. Spare a thought for Beethoven you lot. There was never a ‘new normal’ for Beethoven. He suffered social isolation like no other due to profound deafness that never ended. Imagine being one of the greatest composers the world has ever seen and not being able to hear a single note.  And to top it off, he had tinnitus as well. Unimaginable.  

How privileged are those of us who are able to hear the beautiful music of Ludwig Van Beethoven.  Two hundred and fifty years after his birth, Beethoven is still as popular as ever. The number of virtual orchestras and choirs performing Beethoven’s ninth symphony demonstrate a global symbol of hope, inspiration and connectedness during isolation. Wouldn’t it be great if Beethoven becomes the symbol of the pandemic rather than toilet paper?

From radio ABC Classic

‘In 2019, Beethoven was revealed as Australia’s favourite composer, topping the Classic 100: Composer countdown. And so in June 2020, to celebrate his 250th birthday, we’re dedicating the Classic 100 to Beethoven’. (ABC Classic).

And the winner is …

Symphony No.9 ‘Choral’ (‘Ode to Joy’)

To find out the top 100, go to

Isolation for Beethoven …

The following is an excerpt of a letter from Beethoven to his brothers. He experienced the kind of isolation that few of us will ever experience.  But even in his despair he still thought of others.

To my brothers, 1802

If you think I am hostile, morose and anti-social, how unkind you are. You must remember that six years ago I was attacked by an incurable malady. This was aggravated by unskilful physicians and I was deluded that I would be cured.

I enjoyed the pleasures of society, yet was obliged early in life to isolate myself, and to pass my existence in solitude. How cruel was my defective hearing, it made me sadder than ever. I am completely misunderstood and completely isolated. I must live like an exile. What humiliation when others beside me heard a flute playing or a shepherd singing, and I heard nothing! Such things brought me to the verge of desperation, and wellnigh caused me to put an end to my life. Art! art alone, deterred me. How could I possibly quit the world before bringing forth all that I felt I had to offer?[2] And thus I spared this miserable life–so utterly miserable perhaps more severe on an artist than on any one else.

Recommend Virtue to your children; that alone, and not wealth, can ensure happiness. I speak from experience. It was Virtue alone which sustained me in my misery; I have to thank her and Art for not having ended my life by suicide.

Love each other. How much I shall rejoice if I can serve my friends, even in the grave! So be it then! I joyfully hasten to meet Death. If he comes before I have had the opportunity of developing all my artistic powers, then, notwithstanding my cruel fate, he will come too early for me, advent will release me from a state of endless suffering. Come when he may, I shall meet him with courage. Farewell! Do not quite forget me, even in death; I deserve this from you, because during my life I so often thought of you, and wished to make you happy. Amen!

To read the full transcript of this letter and others go to



4 Responses

  1. What an incredible person. This article is an important reminder to us all of people who can’t escape isolation for one reason or another.

  2. I have always thought of Beethoven’s creative output as the greatest achievement of any single human being. There is a reason why his music continues to be loved and you explain it so well.

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