On Music: 5 other composers who went deaf


Everyone knows that Beethoven wrote some of his most famous music after he'd already gone deaf. But guess what? He wasn't the only one. Here are 5 others you should know:

Like Bach, William Boyce (1711-1779) made his living as a church keyboardist, but was also a master composer—one of the best to come out of England during the 18th century. Boyce went deaf and had to quit his job as an organist, but went on editing works by well-known composers like William Byrd and Henry Purcell.

A colleague of Mozart's, Ignaz Holzbauer (1711-1793) wrote about 70 symphonies and over half-a-dozen operas. During the last years of his life he was totally deaf.

Felix Draeseke (1835-1913) is most famous for his (remarkable facial hair) piano piece, Sonata quasi Fantasia, which was admired by Franz Liszt. Draeseke wrote operas and symphonies even though he suffered from a chronic hearing ailment that later left him almost completely deaf.

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) is best known for his gorgeous Requiem. Like Boyce, Holzbauer and Draeseke before him, Fauré went deaf later in life and had serious trouble hearing high and low frequencies.

Perhaps the best-known of the lesser-known composers to lose hearing late in life is the brilliant Czech composer Bedrich Smetana, who was already going deaf when he wrote his most famous piece, Má Vlast (My Country), a symphonic tone poem featuring a movement called Vltava, or "The Moldau." As he lost his hearing, Smetana also suffered from chronic tinnitus, which eventually caused him to go insane. In 1884, he died in a mental hospital in Prague. Oh joy"¦ As the name implies, "The Moldau" paints a musical portrait of the famous river that twists through the Czech Republic. Click the play button to hear an excerpt and be sure to Czech out Smetana's own description of "The Moldau" after the jump. By the way, can anyone tell me which country's national anthem sounds similar to the Smetana tune and why?

Smetana's description: "The composition describes the course of the Vltava, starting from the two small springs, the Cold and Warm Vltava, to the unification of both streams into a single current, the course of the Vltava through woods and meadows, through landscapes where a farmer's wedding is celebrated, the round dance of the mermaids in the night's moonshine: on the nearby rocks loom proud castles, palaces and ruins aloft. The Vltava swirls into the St. John's Rapids; then it widens and flows toward Prague, past the Vysehrad, and then majestically vanishes into the distance, ending at the Elbe."