Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Beethoven's Immortal Beloved

Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved—a mystery that scholars have been trying to solve for decades. This month on Clef Notes we’re exploring love and its relation to classical music and composers. Today, let’s look at Beethoven and the woman who will forever be labeled his “Immortal Beloved.”

When Beethoven passed away in 1827, his brother and several friends found a letter among his belongings. It contained no year, location, or addressee. It did, however, contain passionate lines written to someone for whom the composer must have felt deeply:

“My angel, my all, my very self…”
“Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved—I am resolved to wander so long away from you until I can fly to your arms and say that I am really at home with you, and can send my soul enwrapped in you into the land of spirits.”
“Oh continue to love me—never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved…”

Beethoven’s Immortal Beloved has been a subject of musicological research for years. In the 1950s, the analyzing of a water mark on the paper estimated that the note was composed in 1812. Records state that at that time, Beethoven was in a Bohemian spa town known as Teplitz. Though scholars have disagreed over the years in just who this woman may be, there are several popular candidates.

Some consider Countess Julia Guicciardi a viable candidate. Beethoven’s former piano student, he dedicated his famed “Moonlight” Sonata to the girl. It is known that he did love her however her father did not approve of the relationship.

Julia Guicciardi [Courtesy of https://wikimedia.org]
What about Josephine Brunsvik? She also studied with Beethoven at one point. Though married to Count Josef Deym, Josephine maintained correspondence with the composer following her husband’s death. Beethoven once referred to her as his “only Beloved” in a letter.

Josephine Brunsvik [Courtesy of http://assets4.classicfm.com]
Lastly, and probably the most popular candidate, it’s Antonie Brentano, wife of Beethoven’s friend Franz Brentano. For years, many people didn’t believe it was possible for Beethoven to love the wife of his dear friend in such a way. But in the 1970s, scholar Maynard Solomon shed some light on the situation, claiming both Beethoven and Antonie were at the same hotel in Prague just days before the letters were written, according to the hotel registry. Interesting.

Antonie Brentano [Courtesy of https://wikimedia.org]

These are just three of many potential “Immortal Beloveds” whom have been considered over the years. Will we ever know exactly who Beethoven addressed in his 1812 letter? One can only speculate.

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