April 27 - Beethoven Composes Für Elise

    Posted on April 27, 2022

This is an update of my post published on April 27, 2011:

What if the movie Jaws had been called Shark Attack? Wouldn't that have been so much less attention-grabbing?

Some titles are genius—and some are quite ordinary. Some are memorable—and some slip the mind immediately. For sure, coming up with a title for something you've written or painted or otherwise created is tough!

Apparently, the great music composer Ludwig van Beethoven just didn't bother. He loved to create music—not to name it! That's why most of his pieces are called things like Symphony No. 1 in C major and Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major. The reason his famous piano solo work Für Elise has a title is because someone asked who he was composing the piece for, and he answered, “Für Elise,” German for “For Elise.”

Scholars aren't sure who Elise was, although there are several theories. I know that modern songwriters who include names in their titles may not use the name of the person who actually inspired the piece—so I am not too surprised that there was no one unambiguous person in Beethoven's life named Elise. Still, if the original manuscript of the piece (which was unknown and unpublished in Beethoven's lifetime, and which is now lost) said Für Elise at the top as just a dedication, not a title, then there had to be someone specific he was thinking of.

What is a bagatelle?

Für Elise is not a symphony, a sonata, or a concerto; it is generally considered a bagatelle. This is a musical work that is short and light or mellow. Bagatelle literally means “trifle.”


If you play piano (or want to learn), did you know that there are You Tube videos available in which you can watch a person play with two camera angles, plus watch a simultaneous scrolling bar-graph and conventional score? Very helpful, I think! Here is the video for Fur Elise.

...But not as helpful as a good piano teacher!

By the way, check out this entertaining video exploring how various composers - including Beethoven! - would have played "Happy Birthday to You."

No comments:

Post a Comment