April 2016 A to Z Challenge. I’m blogging about history.
F is for ‘Fur Elise’ who?
Most people are familiar with Beethoven’s piece “Fur Elise,” but there are still questions about who the piece was written for. The original manuscript, which has since been lost, was composed when he was forty years old and going deaf. It was dated 27 Apr 1810. It was found upon Beethoven’s death by Ludwig Nohl in 1826, but it wasn’t published until nearly forty years later in 1865. (If you’re trying to piece together a timeline in your head, that was the same year the civil war ended in America.)
The version we know today was the first draft transcribed by Nohl, but there was also a later revised and incomplete version in Beethoven’s hand dated 1822 that used arpeggios in the left hand and had a few extra bars.
It isn’t certain who Elise was, but there are a few possibilities:
- The manuscript may have been transcribed wrong, and it may have been “Fur Therese,” as in Therese Malfatti. Beethoven was in love with her and proposed marriage to her in 1810, but she turned him down and married someone else.
- It may have been written for soprano Elisabeth Rockel (called Elise and Betty) who had befriended Beethoven in 1808.
- It may have been written for Juliane Katharine Elisabet Barensfeld (called Elise) who was a child prodigy and live with Beethoven’s friend Johann Malzel. Supposedly, Beethoven dedicated the song to the 13-year-old Elise as a favor to the above mentioned Therese who lived next door to Malzel.
- There is also a theory that ‘Elise’ was a general term for ‘Sweetheart.’
Whomever the girl was, she must have been very special for him to dedicate to her such a beautiful piece.