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Beethoven's death - DNA project

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Helen 24 Mar 23 - 05:39 PM
GUEST,keberoxu 24 Mar 23 - 07:07 PM
Stilly River Sage 24 Mar 23 - 07:30 PM
Stilly River Sage 24 Mar 23 - 07:37 PM
Helen 24 Mar 23 - 07:39 PM
Helen 24 Mar 23 - 07:40 PM
Steve Shaw 25 Mar 23 - 07:50 AM
meself 25 Mar 23 - 10:56 AM
Steve Shaw 25 Mar 23 - 12:16 PM
Steve Shaw 25 Mar 23 - 12:19 PM
Dave the Gnome 26 Mar 23 - 05:32 AM
Steve Shaw 26 Mar 23 - 05:59 AM
Steve Shaw 26 Mar 23 - 06:07 AM
GUEST,keberoxu 26 Mar 23 - 01:39 PM
Steve Shaw 26 Mar 23 - 07:32 PM
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Subject: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: Helen
Date: 24 Mar 23 - 05:39 PM

Interesting news article this week and importantly, a previous DNA analysis was not done on an authentic lock of hair from Beethoven:

Beethoven's DNA from a tuft of hair reveals new insights into his health and family

"While the genome, published on Thursday in the journal Current Biology, can't tell us exactly what killed him, it reveals he had a genetic predisposition to liver disease and was infected by hepatitis B at some point in his life."

....

"Over the past 196 years, scientists have debated what could have caused the famous musician's poor health, with some earlier research based on hair analysis suggesting he may have had lead poisoning."

....

"They were able to rule out three locks of hair, including one known as the Hillier lock. This sample, which had led to the earlier suggestion of lead poisoning, actually came from a woman."

Some of the many existing locks of hair which were supposedly from Beethoven were not his. The latest project tested all of those locks labelled with his name and identified the authentic ones.


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: GUEST,keberoxu
Date: 24 Mar 23 - 07:07 PM

Furthermore, according to that article,
a Belgian family of Beethovens, living today,
can no longer say that they are related to Beethoven.
They have been saying so for years,
but the DNA analysis proved them wrong.


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 24 Mar 23 - 07:30 PM

I woke during the wee hours this morning and on the classical station I heard a wonderful teaser about this from the program host. 4am and I'm pulling up the Facebook page on my phone to like the program for the station to get the story.

Scientists sequence Beethoven's genome for clues into his painful past, a story by Ari Daniel. One of NPR's two Ari Shapiros, the less well-known one, so he just uses his middle name and not his last.

The article is a summary of the paper published in Current Biology called Genomic analyses of hair from Ludwig van Beethoven. This links directly to the PDF of the paper if you want to download and read it.


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: Stilly River Sage
Date: 24 Mar 23 - 07:37 PM

The story says there was an extra-marital or pre-marital relationship, sometime between 1570 and 1770 (so specific, yet so broad!) that says Ludwig wasn't as related to some of the named family as people thought.

I've been working in museum archives in Fort Worth and the two local artists whose slides I scan every week did a series of miniature portraits of various classical composers. The Beethoven one is a darker skin, and it seems they had information (in the 1970s or 1980s when they were painting these) that Beethoven was reputed to be half Moorish? I think they were responding to a rumor. Here is a Smithsonian article on the subject.


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: Helen
Date: 24 Mar 23 - 07:39 PM

keberoxu, according to the article I linked to said this:

"Genes reveal a family surprise

"Genetic data from five men living in Belgium with the name "van Beethoven" shared on a commercial ancestry database, however, did reveal an intriguing family mystery.

"Their DNA showed the men were related, and genealogical records showed they were part of Beethoven's family tree, but their Y chromosome did not match Beethoven's.

"This suggests that somewhere along the line between 1572 and 1700, a male child, potentially Beethoven's father, had been born out of wedlock."


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: Helen
Date: 24 Mar 23 - 07:40 PM

And thanks for your links, SRS. I'll read them too.


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 25 Mar 23 - 07:50 AM

A rather odd thing: when I saw this thread this morning I was listening to the string quartet Op 59 no 2 (I recommend it!).

The first thing to say is that Beethoven lived to the age of 56 or 57, not outstandingly old but not out of order for the time. His deafness is very well documented, but his other health issues, less so. It seems that we now know that he suffered from hepatitis B, which wouldn't have done his liver much good. We know that he was a wine drinker but also that he was outraged by any suggestion that he was a drunkard. Of course, drinking on top of hepatitis wouldn't have been the best way to steer through life. His very best output spanned over 30 years of his life, getting mightier by the year and enduring right to the end, hardly the pattern you'd expect from a raving alcoholic.

His lifestyle was unsettled and chaotic. He moved house many times and was known to be careless of personal hygiene. One of his friends noted that his "pot de nuit" was once so full that it could hardly be moved without spilling. It isn't too much of a stretch to suppose that a lot of his gastrointestinal troubles might have arisen from this. In the last few years of his life he was a fairly isolated figure, often at war with his associates and obsessed with his custody battle over his nephew Karl. At the same time his work output was prodigious (think Missa Solemnis, ninth symphony, Diabelli variations, late string quartets, late piano sonatas), and I can imagine him in his quarters all alone, hunched over his piano which he could scarcely hear, if at all, glass of wine to hand, neglecting his diet...Not a healthy lifestyle conducive to long life...

Lots of mythology, facts thin on the ground, but at least we've gleaned something from his locks of hair. Bottom line, not a well man, unhealthy, stressful lifestyle, lived to a reasonable age...Think I'll concentrate on his music. I have a Beethoven bust. He and I often have a chat. Pity there's no afterlife because I'd have loved a good face-to-face natter with him. Maybe I'll learn German before I die, just in case.


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: meself
Date: 25 Mar 23 - 10:56 AM

"The Beethoven one is a darker skin, and it seems they had information (in the 1970s or 1980s when they were painting these) that Beethoven was reputed to be half Moorish? I think they were responding to a rumor." This strikes me as odd, since none of the contemporary painted portraits of Beethoven give him a particularly dark complexion, AFAIK.


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 25 Mar 23 - 12:16 PM

There's an etching made in 1814 by a chap called Blasius Hoefel, based on a drawing by one Louis Letronne, that shows Beethoven with a rather dark complexion. To me, it doesn't chime with any other portraits of him made during his life. An odd thing about a lot of Beethoven images is that they generally don't look much like one another. Speculation is fine but the music is great.


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 25 Mar 23 - 12:19 PM

I'm a bit surprised that the Smithsonian article didn't use that image.


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 26 Mar 23 - 05:32 AM

I had a listen to your recommendation, Steve, and it was very nice. But is it folk :-D

Seriously though, I enjoyed it. The Spotify search led me to Op:130 leading into 59. When it had done with Ludwig it then led me into a thing called "The Mozart Project" which isn't just the man himself but all sorts of composers featuring lots of stuff I recognised. Perfect for classical music lightweights like me :-)


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 26 Mar 23 - 05:59 AM

Spotify mashes things up a bit too much for classical. It doesn't seem to treat the separate movements of longer pieces as a single work. The quartet I listened to yesterday was on BBC Sounds, from the Radio 3 lunchtime concert which was on last Friday. Over 50 years ago it was the second movement, molto adagio,that was one of the handful of pieces that stole my heart away and got me into classical music. It's said that Beethoven wrote it after contemplating a beautiful starry sky. I can well believe it.


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 26 Mar 23 - 06:07 AM

Nowt wrong with skipping around in the manner of the. Mozart Project, Dave! Think of it as "the Classic FM Syndrome." A lovely bit of said skipping around happens at 7pm on weekday evenings for half an hour on Radio 3, the Classical Mixtape. There's usually at least something folkiferous on it!


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: GUEST,keberoxu
Date: 26 Mar 23 - 01:39 PM

I would concur with Steve's observation that
portraits of Ludwig van Beethoven do not much resemble each other.
Some of them are purposefully idealised .

I have in mind one much-reproduced portrait of Beethoven which
is large enough in scale to include his hands, writing something.
The hands have these long slender tapering fingers on them,
highly elegant and delicate looking, very aesthetic somehow.
But I believe the contemporary descriptions of Beethoven
describe his hands as looking very different than this.


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Subject: RE: Beethoven's death - DNA project
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 26 Mar 23 - 07:32 PM

A whimsical aside, admittedly, but it seems that Beethoven was a small fellow at five foot two. At least he outdid Grieg and Schubert, who both managed only five foot one. You do wonder whether diminutive statures such as these affected these chaps in any way...

Ravel was another minnow. Rachmaninov and Glazunov both exceeded six foot six, and Stravinsky described Rachmaninov as "a six-and-a-half foot scowl."


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