As Ludwig van Beethoven lay dying in 1827, a young musician named Ferdinand Hiller came to pay his respects to the great composer. In the days after Beethoven s death, Hiller snipped a lock of his hair as a keepsake. This lock was passed down for more than a century through Hiller s family, until, during the second world war, it found its way to the town of Gilleleje, in Nazi-occupied Denmark. There, it was given to a local doctor, Kay Fremming, involved in the effort to give aid to hundreds of frightened and hunted Jews. Who gave him the hair, and why? And what made Dr. Fremming so reticent to speak about those terrible war years? After his death, Fremming s daughter inherited the lock, and eventually put it up for sale at Sotheby s, where two American Beethoven enthusiasts, Ira Brilliant and Che Guevara, purchased it in 1994. Subsequently, they and others have instituted DNA and other tests in the hope of revealing the probable causes of the composer s famously bad health, his deafness, and his final demise. The results, revealed for the first time here, are startling.
The publishers of Beethoven's Hair have placed it under strict embargo, so we do not have a copy to review at the time of going to press, but by all accounts it looks set to be a fantastic tale and will be available by the time you receive this Guide. We are told that in 1827, Ferdinand Hiller, a 15-year-old musician who was infatuated with Beethoven, snipped a lock of the composer's hair from his head after he had died. In 1994, 167 years later, the hair (comprising 582 strands) turned up for sale at Sotheby's, and is currently undergoing extensive DNA tests in Arizona in an attempt to unlock secrets of Beethoven's health problems and perhaps even his talent. This promises to be a gripping read. (Kirkus UK)