A musicologist and Beethoven scholar weaves a dual narrative about the way deafness transformed the life and practice of the great composer as well as that of his late wife, Barbara, who lost her hearing as a consequence of radiation administered to treat a brain tumor.
It is the artistic human-interest story to end them all ... just as Elijah Wald blew the dust off the myth of Robert Johnson in Escaping The Delta: Robert Johnson And The Invention Of The Blues...so does music historian and Beethoven expert Robin Wallace illuminate the composer's hearing loss in tandem with that of his wife, creating very personal account of what it means to be human. Wallace does not so much reduce the triumph of Beethoven to the mundane as he does elevate that same primal spark within us all, the ability to adapt when challenged ... Knitting the two narratives together, Wallace takes this story of loss through a refreshingly dizzying ride through musicology, audiology, epistemology, symbology, semiotics, psychology, as well as the evolution of the piano ... Wallace notes that for Beethoven and, indeed, all composers, composition is a whole-body experience that is the sum of all the parts of being human.
Occasionally, life can weave together a professional and personal story in a way that is so fantastic as to seem fated rather than coincidental ... By including Barbara’s story, the mythology of Beethoven as brooding composer expands to include the more heartbreaking story—that of Beethoven the socially isolated human being ... Wallace includes fascinating examples of how Beethoven’s diminishing hearing might’ve influenced his compositions ... Robin Wallace’s book not only humanizes one of the most famous composers in the history of Western music, it serves as a beautifully written love letter to his late wife, Barbara.
Beethoven scholar Wallace...offers a probing examination of the artist's creative process and how he turned his hearing loss to his advantage ... The author deepens readers' knowledge of Beethoven's artistic life while broadening their understanding of hearing and loss. Highly recommended.