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BeethovenA Political Artist in Revolutionary Times$
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William Kinderman

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226669052

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226669199.001.0001

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Beethoven in Heiligenstadt

Beethoven in Heiligenstadt

(p.62) Chapter III Beethoven in Heiligenstadt

William Kinderman

University of Chicago Press

Reevaluation of Beethoven's pivotal half-year spent in seclusion at the village of Heiligenstadt during 1802 enables fresh insight into his creative process. Beethoven withdrew from society on account of his incurable deafness. The contents of three sketchbooks offer new perspectives on important compositions, including the "Tempest" Sonata and "Prometheus" Variations, pieces for piano that foreshadow the Ninth and Eroica Symphonies. Already at this time somewhat disenchanted with Napoleon, Beethoven forged a novel compositional approach suggestive of deconstruction, involving a stripping-away of conventional elements and an enhanced narrative flow involving elements of Promethean forethought. My audio recordings of Beethoven's two drafts for the first movement of the "Tempest" Sonata as well as the completed work illustrate this chapter; these are available on the publisher's website. Beethoven's hearing continued to decline during his 1802 retreat at Heiligenstadt, yet his art advanced, and he rejected suicide as an answer to his despair because of his devotion to his creative mission. Despite his progressive hearing loss, Beethoven's art became richer. The mysterious gaps in sound in the slow movement of his "Tempest" Sonata may represent his artistic response to his debility. The notion of a "rebirth" or "new path" marked Beethoven's renewed creative commitment.

Keywords:   seclusion, deafness, sketchbooks, Napoleon, deconstruction, Heiligenstadt, Tempest sonata, Eroica symphony

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