Latest Posts

Most Heartbreaking Strains of Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testomony – Lyric Say

When he was thirty-one years outdated, Ludwig van Beethoven cracked.

In a touristy city simply outdoors of Vienna, he sat down and wrote arguably probably the most well-known letter in classical music historical past.

Beethoven's Heiligenstadt Testament

Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testomony

It was a cry from the depths of his soul, a confession concerning the extent of his bodily and psychological well being points, and a quasi-legal doc akin to a will.

In the present day we’re wanting on the story of Beethoven’s well-known Heiligenstadt Testament, and 5 of probably the most heartbreaking quotes from it.

Origins of the Heiligenstadt Testomony

Within the spring of 1802, Beethoven’s well being worsened. His physician suggested him to keep away from stress and to spend a while away from Vienna. So in April 1802, he traveled to the idyllic village of Heiligenstadt.

Sadly, the remaining and leisure didn’t assist. In reality, with out distractions, his psychological well being quickly received worse.

He started writing the doc on 6 October 1802 and continued on 10 October. It expresses his devastation at his deafness and his want to die by suicide.

The Supposed Recipients of the Heiligenstadt Testomony

The Testomony was addressed to his brothers Karl and Johann.

Ludwig had an advanced relationship with each brothers.

Karl had moved to Vienna in 1794. He labored a number of jobs, one among them being as a liaison between Ludwig and music publishers. However he got here throughout as boastful. Additionally, Ludwig had by no means launched him to publishers, so that they had been bewildered by the sudden letters written within the royal “we.” At one level Karl promised some piano sonatas to 1 writer whereas Ludwig had promised them to a different, and so they had a combat about it that supposedly turned bodily.

András Schiff Beethoven Piano Sonata No.15 ‘Pastorale’ Op.28

Karl’s title seems all through the doc, however Johann’s doesn’t. Historians don’t agree about what this implies. It may have been one thing as sensible as Ludwig feeling not sure about which of Johann’s names to make use of on a quasi-legal doc (his full title was Nikolaus Johann van Beethoven), to repulsion at having to jot down the title “Johann” in any respect, since that was the title of their abusive, alcoholic father.

Beethoven in 1803

Beethoven, 1803

5 Heiligenstadt Testomony Strains and What They Say About Beethoven

1. “O ye men who think or say that I am malevolent, stubborn or misanthropic, how greatly do ye wrong me”

Within the opening passage of the Testomony, Beethoven bemoans the repute he had as a prickly delinquent curmudgeon.

He writes that he has all the time been naturally inclined to goodwill and generosity, however that the devastation caused by his well being troubles has soured his entire temperament.

He lays particular blame on the toes of medical doctors, claiming they “cheated” him for years by dangling the hope of enchancment in entrance of him – a hope that, by 1802, he believed had all the time been empty.

2. “It was impossible for me to say to men speak louder, shout, for I am deaf.”

Beethoven was devastated by his deafness, after all, however one thing that appears to have bothered him simply as a lot or much more was what his deafness would imply for his social place and his skill to help himself.

He expresses frustration at how he by no means has felt in a position to inform the reality concerning the extent of his incapacity, for concern that it might affect his musical repute: “Ah how could I possibly admit such an infirmity in the one sense which should have been more perfect in me than in others[?]”

Postcard of Beethoven in Heiligenstadt

Postcard of Beethoven in Heiligenstadt

3. “What a humiliation when one stood beside me and heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard the shepherd singing and again I heard nothing, such incidents brought me to the verge of despair, but little more and I would have put an end to my life.”

Beethoven’s physician had inspired him to hunt relaxation and leisure by going to the countryside, however right here we see how such therapy didn’t handle the core supply of Beethoven’s debilitating stress. In reality, it’s straightforward to see why giving Beethoven time to mull would make it even worse.

Emmanuel Pahud, Daishin Kashimoto, Lawrence Energy Carry out Beethoven’s Serenade op. 25

4. “Ah it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt called upon me to produce, and so I endured this wretched existence”

Many individuals consider the romantic fantasy that Beethoven cherished composing a lot that it gave him the energy to maintain on residing.

The Heiligenstadt Testomony suggests a considerably darker chance: he felt an obligation to his expertise. That obligation, slightly than his sheer love of music alone, was a significant component in preserving him from appearing on his suicidal ideas.

5. “It is so long since real joy echoed in my heart – O when – O when, O Divine One – shall I find it again in the temple of nature and of men – Never? no – O that would be too hard.”

This passage was written on 10 October. Over the course of the week, Beethoven clearly had time to stew in his feelings, and he reached a brand new pitch of emotion by the tip of the Testomony. His sentences have gone from lengthy and comparatively goal to being simply sheer outbursts of ache, with many dashes and determined half-formed ideas.

This letter should have meant one thing profound to Beethoven. Even via his numerous strikes he stored it.

It was found by his buddies Anton Schindler and Stephan von Breuning after his demise. They revealed it a number of months later.

Beethoven String Quartet Op. 135 in F Main – Ariel Quartet


The Heiligenstadt Testomony – and Beethoven’s deafness extra typically – is usually condensed into an oversimplified narrative of “Beethoven bravely overcame his deafness.”

Though Beethoven was certainly courageous, it’s additionally vital to do not forget that his life and profession post-Testomony had been by no means, ever straightforward.

A method or one other, he by no means stopped pleading for understanding from the world round him.

There’s nothing we are able to do for Beethoven now, in addition to preserving his music in our lives. However maybe we are able to honor his preventing spirit by honoring and supporting different residing musicians fighting psychological or bodily well being points themselves.

For extra of the most effective in classical music, for our E-E-newsletter

Latest Posts

Don't Miss