Beethoven on His Deathbed

Beethoven on His Deathbed Human Voices Wake Us

An episode from 10/17/21: The death Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) came after a long series of illnesses. By then, friends and admirers and hangers-on sought out the composer in his last days. Tonight, I read Jan Swafford’s account of Beethoven’s death in his incredible biography, Beethoven: Anguish & Triumph.

Swafford’s book also includes one of the most moving details from any biography: that is, the supreme joy the composer experienced—even as he was wracked with illness and pain—when a complete set of Handel’s scores arrived by post. In his last days, Beethoven was able to sit up and swim through these books, hearing the music in his head.

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