Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for San Francisco Performance

Music History Monday: We Would Raise a Toast to Beethoven, But, Well, That Would Be Inappropriate

On March 26, 1827 – 191 years ago today – Ludwig van Beethoven died at the age of 56 years, 3 months, and 11 days in his third story apartment (what in Europe would have been called the second story) at Schwarzspanierstrasse 15, in a building called the Schwarzspanierhaus. (Schwarzspanierhaus means the “House of the Black-Robed Spaniards”, so-called because it had once been part of a monastery built by black-robed, Montserrat Benedictine monks from Spain. The order auctioned the building off in 1781, at which point it was turned into rental units. Painfully – and despite tremendous contemporary outcry – the building was demolished in the name of “progress” in 1904.) Even by the standards of his day, Beethoven cannot have been considered a particularly healthy man. Along with his chronic hearing disability (which resulted in clinical deafness after 22 years), Beethoven suffered from smallpox, rheumatism and rheumatic fever, typhus, colitis, all sorts of skin disorders and infections, abscesses, ophthalmia (eye inflammations, in particular conjunctivitis or “pink eye”), chronic bronchitis, inflammatory degeneration of his arteries, colic, irritable bowl, foul body odors and extreme halitosis: bad breath. At the end of his life, let us add to this woeful list hepatitis, pancreatitis, jaundice […]

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