Ludwig Van Beethoven may not have been deaf after all when he composed his final masterpiece, according to new research.
For over a century, it has been believed that the German composer and pianist had gone "stone deaf" by the time he debuted his Ninth Symphony in May 1824.
But now, a professor of musicology has uncovered crucial evidence that suggests that Beethoven actually retained some hearing in his left ear until shortly before his death in March 1827.
Theodore Albrecht, a professor at Kent State University in Ohio, USA, told the Observer: "This is going to send everybody scurrying to revise biological concepts about Beethoven.
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"Not only was Beethoven not completely deaf at the premiere of his Ninth Symphony in May 1824, he could hear, although increasingly faintly, for at least two years afterwards," Prof Albrecht added.
Prof Albrecht has made the startling discovery as he undertakes, for the first time, to translate Beethoven's "conversation books" from German into English - a "game-changing" project which will eventually encompass 12 volumes.
Beethoven, who began to lose his hearing in 1798, carried the "conversation books" from 1818, in which friends and acquaintances would jot down comments in the books for him.
And in one entry, dated 1823, the composer scribbled down advice to a stranger in a coffee shop who was losing his own hearing.
Beethoven wrote: "Just do not use mechanical devices [ear trumpets] too early; by abstaining from using them, I have fairly preserved my left ear in this way."
Prof Albrecht told the Observer: "The conversation books are going to be a game-changer." Referring to the range of pitches used in Beethoven's final symphony, Prof Albrecht says: "All the registers are there. He could hear them with his inner ear. He was amazing."