Beethoven's Despair Spelled Out In A Famous Letter To His Brothers

Feb 22, 2016

The Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter and directive written by Beethoven to his brothers in October, 1802, is an important missive, opened after the composer's death in 1827.

It depicts his pain and struggle: the diminishing hope that his hearing will improve, a feeling of growing isolation, and his commitment to his art, that ultimately saves his life. By the time he wrote The Heiligenstadt Testament, the already-acclaimed composer had spent six years, starting at age 26 or 27, searching in vain for a “cure.”

The Heiligenstadt Testament

The letter was opened 25 years after it was written, following Beethoven’s death at age 56.

Musicologist William Kinderman, a Beethoven scholar whose work includes a biography on the incomparable composer, has spent time in Vienna and periods in Munich, Berlin and Bonn.

Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testament coincides with the beginning of his middle period (1802-1812), a departure from his creative past, and a turning point in his life marked by his monumental Symphony No. 3,  “Eroica.”