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UB doctors join BPO in exploring the mysteries of Beethoven

What caused Beethoven's deafness? How was it treated? And what effect did it have on his music and his character?

On Jan. 26, in a multimedia event, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's "Know the Score" series will probe these and other centuries-old questions. In a new collaboration, the musicians will be joined by two UB medical professors.

Linda Pessar, director of the Center for Medical Humanities at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, will discuss the stages Beethoven went through when he realized he was losing his hearing at the age of 26.

“My focus will be on Beethoven's remarkable resiliency that led him to turn away from suicide, despite the social isolation and threat to his musical creativity that deafness represented,” Pessar said in a statement announcing the event.

Jeff Higginbotham, professor and chair of the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences in the UB College of Arts and Sciences, will discuss social circumstances, medical treatments and available technologies for deaf people in Beethoven's day. He will demonstrate some of the devices and treatments that were available at the time.

The audience will be able to hear recordings suggesting how Beethoven might have been able to hear music after his deafness had progressed.

The evening culminates when BPO Resident Conductor Stefan Sanders leads the BPO in the famous Fifth Symphony.

Sanders points out that Beethoven's triumph over the obstacles in his path continues to inspire the world.

"Beethoven’s perseverance through adversity is something everyone identifies with,” he said, announcing the concert.

The event takes place at 8 p.m. Jan. 26 at Kleinhans Music Hall. Tickets are $10-$49. Call 885-5000.

email: mkunz@buffnews.com

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