The Heiligenstadt Testament
When Beethoven was 26 years old he was already a very successful composer and piano virtuoso. At this time he began to suffer from buzzing noises and other sounds in his ears, and two years later deafness broke out. In 1802 he had lost 60% of his hearing and was completely deaf in 1816 – at only 46 years.
Beethoven, on the advice of his doctor and in an attempt to come to terms with his condition, he moved to the outskirts of Vienna and lived in the small town of Heiligenstadt, from April to October 1802 . There he wrote his Heiligenstädter Testament, which is a document of his growing despair – and his resolution to continue living for his art. The letter was found after Beethoven’s death. It is a document of surrender. In accepting his fate and “the end of his world”, he moved into a stillness where the only thing he could hear was the voice of god. And this is reflected in his music.
“…Patience – it is said that I must now choose for my guide, I have done so, I hope my determination will remain firm to endure until it please the inexorable parcae to break the thread, perhaps I shall get better, perhaps not, I am prepared. Forced already in my 28th year to become a philosopher, O it is not easy, less easy for the artist than for anyone else – Divine One thou lookest into my inmost soul, thou knowest it, thou knowest that love of man and desire to do good live therein. O men, when some day you read these words, reflect that you did me wrong and let the unfortunate one comfort himself and find one of his kind who despite all obstacles of nature yet did all that was in his power to be accepted among worthy artists and men.” (excerpt from the Heiligenstadt testament)
The work Beethoven began after writing the Heiligenstadt testament was the oratorio ” Christ on the Mount of Olives“, portraying the emotional turmoil of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane prior to his crucifixion.