Fur Elise

A beautiful piece of music. I have always related to it because my name is Elise. My father, David, was an accomplished pianist. He passed the London College of Music Examinations (LCM Examinations) when he was fifteen years old. He often sat at the piano and played Beethoven’s music. Another favourite is Moonlight Sonata.

Für Elise
Bagatelle in A minor WoO 59

About Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) – deaf German composer
Ludwig van Beethoven mini biography
Lengthy books and countless articles have been written about the composer Ludwig van Beethoven. The stories, misconceptions, and alterations are many, but no matter how time has distorted information, some things are very clear when it comes to the subject. He was named after his grandfather who had held a prominent music position, and young Ludwig’s talents were discovered fairly early in his life. Sources vary in how mean and pushy his father was in trying to exploit his child’s talents, but it’s well-known that Ludwig could stand in as organist for his teacher before he was yet a teenager, and it’s also documented that he was the main breadwinner of the family from very early on. Beethoven’s father suffered from alcoholism which only grew worse, and when his mother died when he was just 16, he wrote a letter to his father’s employer asking that the salary be paid to him. From that point on he essentially raised his two younger brothers while still tending to his music studies and job as a musician in the string section.
Several years after his first attempt at going to Vienna, the music capital of the world, Beethoven attempted one more time. The first time he had visited the city an urgent telegram about his mother’s death called him home shortly after his arrival, thus foiling his hopes of, amongst other things, studying with Mozart. The second time became very different. He settled and in a few years established himself as the leading virtuoso and improviser at the piano in all of Vienna. Instead of seeking out permanent employment at churches and courts he worked as a freelancer, arranging concerts and dedicating compositions to his patrons so he could make a living.
In his mid-to-late twenties he started getting uncomfortable feelings in his ears and was prone to illness. After some back and forth with various doctors, the prognosis he received made him contemplate suicide. The discomfort in his ears was only going to get worse, and eventually he would be left without any notable hearing at all. The prospect of going deaf troubled Beethoven so much that he wrote a will which has survived to this day. He later resolved to living, stating that despite all bodily weakness his spirit should rule, and that he felt he could not let go until everything in his heart had come out. When he could no longer keep his ailment a secret, people were keen to disbelieve that he could still compose music, but his output only continued to improve, and many of his masterpieces were written when he had no hearing at all. In the last 15 or so years of his life he was dependent on people writing down their conversation to him.
“You ask me where I get my ideas? That I cannot tell you with certainty. They come unsummoned, directly, indirectly – I could seize them with my hands – out in the open air, in the woods, while walking, in the silence of the nights, at dawn, excited by moods which are translated by the poet into words, but by me into tones that sound and roar and storm about me till I have set them down in notes.” – Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven’s love life was another sad matter. He fell in love a few times, but it was usually with unavailable or unattainable women from the high society who would end up marrying a person from their own class. Musicians were considered mere workers and beneath the aristocracy, even despite success. One example is with the famous Moonlight Sonata, dedicated to a young countess who studied under him for a while. She later married a count and moved to Italy. Another example is one of history’s big love-mysteries. After Beethoven’s death in 1827 a letter was found amongst his belongings addressed only to his immortal beloved. It has been unclear who could possibly have been the recipient of the tender content within, and many guesses and theories have been proposed pretty much ever since the discovery. In recent years some scholars seem to be leaning towards a woman named Bettina Brentano von Arnim.
Beethoven’s funeral made thousands of people flock to the streets, but much more importantly he left behind a legacy of music that, in my opinion, has yet to be surpassed.
For Elise was quietly composed in 1810 when Beethoven was practically deaf
About Für Elise
Perhaps one of the most well-known pieces of music in the world, this composition is a common catalyst and inspiration that causes many people to become interested in the piano. The first few notes are instantly recognized by most people who may even be able to play them, and the entire first section is often taught to students starting out. The number of people who can master the entire piece is significantly smaller because of the intricate control of touch and emotion it requires to come out right.
The Story Behind Für Elise
Für Elise (which is German for For Elise) was composed by Ludwig van Beethoven around 1810 when he was 40 years old and firmly established as one of the greatest composers in history. It is named “Für Elise” because a Beethoven researcher named Ludwig Nohl claimed to have seen this dedication on the original autograph which has been missing since, and this has been the cause of some speculation. The piece was not published until 1865 well after Beethoven’s death in 1827, and no distinct records, letters, or accounts from people at the time make mention of an “Elise” in the composer’s life. Beethoven was in love with a woman named Therese Malfatti around the time he created the work, and one of the theories that has circulated for a long time has been that Ludwig Nohl misread the composer’s poor handwriting which then would have said “Für Therese”. That’s quite a stretch in my own humble opinion. It is also unreasonable to expect that all aquaintances from 200 years ago can be accounted for, especially when the subject is a man who increasingly withdrew himself from the world because of his hearing loss.
In 2009 a Beethoven researcher named Klaus Martin Kopitz made the claim that “Elise” may have been the nickname of opera singer Elisabeth Röckel whom the composer met a few years prior to writing the piece. The two enjoyed a close friendship according to stories told by Röckel herself, but she would later marry Beethoven’s on-and-off friend and rival Johann Nepomuk Hummel. According to Kopitz, the church records for the christening of Röckel’s first child in 1814 give her own name as Maria Eva Elise. He found the records in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, suggesting that Röckel may indeed have been known as “Elise” at least in Viennese circles.
After researching this piece I also came across other theories to explain the dedication, although I am personally quite intrigued by the recent discoveries of Kopitz. One less well documented theory claims that the name “Elise” was used as a general term for “sweetheart”, but I have been unable to substantiate this claim despite seeing it a few places. In my own opinion it would not fit well with Beethoven’s composing and dedication history. However, whether Elise was misread, a known or unknown love or a woman who simply inspired Beethoven to write this piece, it remains one of many unsolved mysteries left to ponder.
It is interesting to note that Ludwig van Beethoven re-visited the piece in 1822, but it remained as sketches that were never released in his lifetime. The intentions behind picking up the work more than decade later are not known. While the revised version appears somewhat incomplete there are significant changes to the accompaniment as well as new material added.

Leave a comment

Filed under A Writer’s Notebook

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s