Friday, February 29, 2008

CSI: Beethoven from Baltimore Symphony

This week, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) held an innovative concert/lecture/performance that explored Beethoven's music and his deafness and other physical illnesses. It was the idea of Marin Alsop, the music director for the BSO, and it combined music with lectures about Beethoven from Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland Medical School medical experts.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the program "explored diagnoses of the composer's hearing loss and a long list of physical ailments that made his last years especially difficult, from respiratory trouble to skin disorders."

Dr. Charles J. Limb, assistant professor of otolaryngology at the Johns Hopkins University, who is one of the medical experts in the program, says in The Sun: "Beethoven is probably the most famous deaf person the world has ever known. Beethoven's hearing loss is the closest thing that classical music has to an urban legend. There is a tendency to romanticize it, but he hated it."

Alsop explained: "For me, the main motivation is to get beyond the image of Beethoven as this disembodied bust, to give people insight into this man who lives upstairs or next door, who writes this incredible music, but is such a tortured soul."

The program included orchestral performances, projected slides of historic images and even a local actor, Tony Tsendeas, portraying Beethoven.