Beethoven's Silent Symphony (Replay)

History repeats itself this week with an episode from the HISTORY This Week archives: May 7, 1824. One of the great musical icons in history, Ludwig Van Beethoven, steps onto stage at the Kärntnertor Theater in Vienna. The audience is electric, buzzing with anticipation for a brand new symphony from the legendary composer. But there’s a rumor on their minds, something only a few know for certain... that Beethoven is deaf. He is about to conduct the debut of his Ninth Symphony—featuring the now-famous ‘Ode to Joy’—yet Beethoven can barely hear a thing. How was it possible for him to conduct? And more importantly, how could he have composed one of the greatest works in the history of classical music?

Special thanks to Jan Swafford, author of Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph.

Audio from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is provided courtesy of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and Riccardo Muti Music.

"Beethoven - Piano Concerto No.3, Op.37 - III. Rondo. Allegro" by Stefano Ligoratti is licensed under CC BY 3.0 (

"Beethoven - Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 - IV. Presto - Allegro Assai (For Recorder Ensemble and Chorus - Papalin)" by Papalin is licensed under CC BY 3.0 (

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