For most people, hearing loss would be hard to cope with, but it’s almost impossible to imagine what it would be like for a professional musician.
Elizabeth Petcu, who was a flautist in the RTE Concert Orchestra for more than 25 years, suffers from a condition called otosclerosis, which is the most common cause of progressive deafness in young adults. It’s also the most likely cause of Beethoven’s deafness.
Elizabeth was appointed Principal Flute in the RTE Concert Orchestra at the age of only 21. She loved her time with the orchestra. There were professional highlights like the tour of the U.S., playing the Ibert Flute Concerto, and the Beethoven series under conductor Laurent Wagner.
And there were personal highlights too: it was in the RTECO that she met the violinist Mircea Petcu, and they now have three grown-up children, Cristian, Ana and Lia. Elizabeth insists on also mentioning the most important family members: Leroy, the lovely, gentle, artful black Labrador cross, and Nina, the German Shepherd, the new dog, “up with whom we put”.
Three years ago Elizabeth’s hearing loss had reached a stage where she finally made the decision to leave the orchestra. Her biggest problem was in hearing sounds in the lower frequencies, both voices and instruments, and hearing what the conductor was saying had become a particular problem.
It was stressful when a conductor would say during a recording “Let’s go from Letter A” and Elizabeth would have no idea what he had said.
Thankfully though she can still hear her own instrument, and despite her hearing loss, Elizabeth has still got a passion for music. She’s adamant that leaving the orchestra has been a kind of new beginning, and she has found new ways to express her artistic nature.
She now has time to pursue her passion for working with clay, and recently had a solo exhibition of her ceramics in The Kilternan Gallery in Co. Dublin. Last year she recorded a solo flute CD called Just Me, which features her favourite repertoire played on a variety of flutes.
In Beethoven and Me Bernadette Comerford follows Elizabeth as she prepares for her first ceramics exhibition, and rehearses for a solo flute recital in the National Gallery.
"Beethoven and Me" is produced by Bernadette Comeford.
First broadcast on 5th December 2009.
An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries