July 1, 2022


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The thriller of the preferred piano piece on the earth

Musical rating by Beethoven for “Für Elise”. (Public area)

I’m about to place the lid on the piano keyboard in my sixth grade music class when a very energetic pupil rushes as much as me and says excitedly, “Trainer, I can play ‘Für Elise’!” I encourage him to take action, however the result’s solely the well-known first 4 notes, an E and the D sharp under, repeated, performed backwards and forwards endlessly.

I inform her that I believe there’s extra to it, however she is pleased to know the primary notes. Though she isn’t significantly musically gifted, nor a fan of a lot music outdoors of pop, she is fascinated by this little basic piano piece written over 200 years in the past. The identical goes for hundreds of thousands and hundreds of thousands of others.

The recognition of Beethoven’s mid-level trifle (one thing like “a trifle” or “single piece”) is superb. I can depend on the fingers of 1 hand the variety of my newbie piano college students who haven’t in some unspecified time in the future requested, “When will I be capable of play ‘Für Elise’?” As of January 1, 2020, Google reported hundreds of thousands of searches for “Für Elise” every month. A YouTube efficiency of it, posted 14 years in the past, has garnered 59 million views, and a YouTube tutorial on the piece has garnered 53 million hits.

Epoch Times Photo
Nameless portrait of Thérèse Malfatti, broadly thought-about the dedicatee of “Für Elise”. (Public area)

What’s the root of its unparalleled recognition? Why this piece, and never a prelude by Chopin or a minuet by Bach and even the primary motion of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata? It takes some analysis. Let’s begin with a little bit of historical past.

There isn’t a lot, and what there’s is cloudy. We all know from the title that it was written “for Elise”, however who was she? The unique manuscript reads: “Für Elise am 27 April [1810] zur Erinnerung. In English: “For Elise on April 27 as a reminder”, or “in remembrance”, or “in remembrance”. My German is much too restricted to move judgment on which one.

In any case, these phrases, not often talked about when writing the play, point out a previous relationship with “Elise”. However what sort of relationship? The 2 potentialities that instantly come to thoughts are “pupil” and “romantic curiosity”. In 1810, 18-year-old Thérèse Malfatti was each, making her a chief candidate.

What? I believed we had been on the lookout for somebody named “Elise”?

Right here’s the place it will get tough

Beethoven apparently gave little or no thought to what, two centuries later, would turn out to be an earth-shattering keyboard ‘hit’. He by no means bothered to publish it, regardless of nice demand for his music. The composer died in 1827, 17 years after composing “Für Elise,” and the piece languished one other 40 years earlier than its publication in 1867 by musicologist Ludwig Nohl. Nohl claimed {that a} Fraulein Babeth Bredl from Munich gave him a signed manuscript of the composition, and that Bredl in flip claimed that she acquired the manuscript from Thérèse Malfatti on the latter’s loss of life in 1851.

Epoch Times Photo
Portrait of Elisabeth Röckel by Joseph Willibrord Mähler. (Public area)

In 1810 Malfatti was a pupil of Beethoven. The composer would have fallen in love together with her (one among his most typical practices) and would have proposed marriage. She refused, Beethoven being greater than twice her age. There was no title to the Bredl/Malfatti manuscript, only a dedication. To Nohl, the piano rondo (a piece having the construction ABACA) appeared like one of many composer’s bagatelles, of which he had written 24. He due to this fact launched it as “Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor”. Above the title, he wrote the dedication as he learn it within the autograph rating: “Für Elise”. And the remaining is historical past.

Properly, not fairly. Some have speculated that Nohl misinterpreted the dedication, which was really “Für Therese”, bolstering the speculation that Thérèse Malfatti was the dedicatee. (In spite of everything, the manuscript was in his possession on the time of his loss of life.) Whereas it’s tough to see how the distinctive preliminary letters “Th” could possibly be missed by any reader, and equally obscure how “r” could possibly be learn. like ‘l’ and ‘e’ like ‘i’, it’s true that Beethoven’s handwriting was as notoriously sloppy as his housekeeping.

If solely we might look at the unique signed manuscript.

However we will’t. It’s misplaced !

“For Therese”?

This casts doubt on the entire firm. How might anybody have misplaced observe of such an necessary manuscript? Might it have been intentionally “misplaced” to hide fraud? A recent musicologist, Luca Chiantore, even steered that there was by no means an autograph rating, that Nohl had merely cobbled collectively the piece from some sketches by Beethoven. In assist of this thesis is the curious proven fact that Theresa Malfatti, assuming that there was certainly an autograph rating in her possession, didn’t publish it herself. Baroness, she certainly might have afforded it, and picture the status that accompanies the posthumous publication of a Beethoven work devoted to you. If she had finished that, we might all play “Für Therese”.

Dig deeper and the layers produce much more thriller. A sketch from 1808 has been found which is a reasonably full model of ‘Theme A’, the opening aria of which my pupil knew the primary 4 notes. Did Beethoven preserve the sketch till 1810, then add the opposite two sections?

It seems that the yr 1810 can’t be positively confirmed because the yr of the work’s composition, though that’s the finest wager primarily based on accessible scholarship. Lastly (roughly) Beethoven scholar Barry Cooper unearthed an 1822 revision of “Für Elise” (if in truth an earlier, accomplished model ever existed) which incorporates many of the parts of the piece that we all know, however wildly misplaced. For the tens of hundreds of thousands aware of the identified model, the 1822 revision will probably be extraordinarily weird. Pianist Mark S. Zimmer recorded it. Pay attention in the event you dare.

And the winner is …

And we ask once more: Who was Elise? Follow the accepted yr 1810 (if not 100% confirmed) and eradicate Theresa Malfatti as a result of her identify was not “Elise” and clerical errors can solely clarify some half, we’re left with two candidates:

Elizabeth Roeckel. In 2010, musicologist Klaus Martin Kopitz produced proof romantically linking Beethoven to Röckel, a soprano, across the time the piece was composed. The singer was typically known as “Elise” by pals.

Elise Barensfeld. In 2014, musicologist Rita Steblin argued for the one contestant whose first identify was really “Elise”. In 1810 Barensfeld was 13, residing close to Beethoven in a home owned by Johann Maelzel, a good friend of Beethoven who later invented the fashionable metronome. Thought-about a piano prodigy, Elise might have taken classes with Beethoven. In that case, he very effectively might have written the play in remembrance of their time collectively as a trainer and pupil.

Personally, I vote for Elise Barensfeld. Not solely is she the one one with this primary identify, however “Für Elise” doesn’t sound like a romantic composition. Quite the opposite, it has the character of a persona portrait.

My interpretation: Part A is a portrait of the scholar, Elise. It captures its youth and freshness. Part B is, maybe, a bit assigned to the scholar. When this frustrates her, she bursts into the “indignant” thirty second notes that conclude the part earlier than returning to Part A. Part C is definitely Beethoven himself, a smiling self-portrait of his irascible fame. After just a few pupil arpeggios and a chromatic scale, we return one final time to part A.

That “Für Elise” is a portrait of a pupil with no romantic angle is supported by the truth that it’s a pupil favourite, not a Valentine’s tune or a track from courtesy. It’s a piano piece about enjoying the piano. Younger pianists get alongside and revel in it. We’ve Beethoven, and whoever “Elise”, to thank for that.