Beethoven's Hair by Russell Martin

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Synopsis

Ludwig van Beethoven lay dying in 1827, a young musician named Ferdinand Hiller came to pay his respects to the great composer. In those days, it was customary to snip a lock of hair as a keepsake, and this Hiller did a day after Beethoven's death. By the time he was buried, Beethoven's head had been nearly shorn by the many people who similarly had wanted a lasting memento of the great man. Such was his powerful effect on all those who had heard his music.

For a century, the lock of hair was a treasured Hiller family relic, and perhaps was destined to end up sequestered in a bank vault, until it somehow found its way to the town of Gilleleje, in Nazi-occupied Denmark, during the darkest days of the Second World War. There, it was given to a local doctor, Kay Fremming, who was deeply involved in the effort to help save hundreds of hunted and frightened Jews. Who gave him the hair, and why? And what was the fate of those refugees, holed up in the attic of Gilleleje's church?

After Fremming's death, his daughter assumed ownership of the lock, and eventually consigned it for sale at Sotheby's, where two American Beethoven enthusiasts, Ira Brilliant and Che Guevara, purchased it in 1994. Subsequently, they and others instituted a series of complex forensic tests in the hope of finding the probable causes of the composer's chronically bad health, his deafness, and the final demise that Ferdinand Hiller had witnessed all those years ago. The results, revealed for the first time here, are startling, and are the most compelling explanation yet offered for why one of the foremost musicians the world has ever known was forced to spend much of his life in silence.

In Beethoven's Hair, Russell Martin has created a rich historical treasure hunt, an Indiana Jones-like tale of false leads, amazing breakthroughs, and incredible revelations. This unique and fascinating book is a moving testament to the power of music, the lure of relics, the heroism of the Resistance movement, and the brilliance of molecular science.

An astonishing tale of one lock of hair and its amazing travels--from nineteenth-century Vienna to twenty-first-century America.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Russell Martin

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Russell Martin is the author of six previous books, including Beethoven's Hair, which was a Los Angeles Times bestseller and a Washington Post Book of the Year.
 
Published January 8, 2002 by Broadway Books. 288 pages
Genres: History, Biographies & Memoirs, Arts & Photography, Education & Reference, Science & Math, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Beethoven's Hair

Publishers Weekly

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Six years ago an improbable pairDretired real-estate developer Ira Brilliant and a Mexican-American doctor named (remarkably) Che GuevaraDgot together to buy a lock of hair that was snipped from Beeth

Oct 02 2000 | Read Full Review of Beethoven's Hair

Publishers Weekly

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After recounting these events in detail, Martin moves on to the ""newsy"" last third of the book: the two collectors submitted the hair to the most up-to-date DNA analysis, with results they and their publisher regarded as so earth shaking that the book was originally embargoed, lest word of its ...

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BC Books

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Today most people view relics as sacred objects of the distant past or lusted-for booty found in novels such as The Da Vinci Code; but for Ira Brilliant and Alfredo “Che” Guevara, Jr., two modern-d...

Nov 28 2005 | Read Full Review of Beethoven's Hair

BC Books

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The chronicle of the Hiller family, how young Ferdinand snipped the lock of hair, and how the same hair passed down generation after generation is interesting enough, but in the hands of a writer such as Martin, the detail and breadth of the story becomes but one song within an even greater compo...

Nov 28 2005 | Read Full Review of Beethoven's Hair

BC Books

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How these men, one a real estate developer and the other a physician, acquired Beethoven’s hair and how the modern-day relic moved down generations of one family, traveled across oceans and through time from 17th century Vienna to 21st century America, to finally rest at the center of a scientifi...

Nov 28 2005 | Read Full Review of Beethoven's Hair

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