Beethoven's women: class differences, the immortal beloved and a possible love child

Composer Ludwig van Beethoven didn't pour all his passion into his music, as proven by the many loves in his life. The most important woman, however, may forever remain a mystery.

Maria Magdalena Beethoven




A boy's mother is his first love, but little is known about Beethoven's. Her union with Beethoven's father, court singer Johann, was her second marriage. She bore him seven children, but only three survived infancy. Her life wasn't easy: Her alcoholic husband was physically abusive, and she died of tuberculosis in 1787 shortly after Ludwig had returned to Bonn after a studying in Vienna.


Maria Anna Wilhelmine von und zu Westerholt-Gysenberg



Franz Gerhard Wegeler, a friend from Beethoven's youth, referred to a certain "beautiful and gracious mannered Fräulein v.W.," to whom Beethoven was "most lovingly attracted." And although Wegeler described it as a "Werther love" - in reference to Goethe's tragic novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther" - it seems that Miss v.W. didn't leave any particularly enduring mark on the composer's life.


Countess Josephine Brunsvik



In 14 love letters between 1804 and 1809, the composer called his recently widowed piano student "angel," "my everything" and his "only love." But their letters have a tone of desperation; had they married, she would have lost custody of her four young children. She married someone else in 1810, while Josephine's sister Therese claimed that Beethoven and the countess were made for each other.


Countess Giulietta Guicciardi




In 1801 or 1802, the Brunsvik sisters introduced Beethoven to their cousin, also a countess. It was love at first sight, but it was clear to both that due to their differing social status, marriage was out of the question - and Giulietta was already engaged. It seems Beethoven was drawn to impossible romances. But the composer did dedicate his "Moonlight Sonata" to Giulietta.




Therese von Malfatti




After Josephine Brunsvick remarried in 1810, Beethoven seriously entertained thoughts of proposing marriage to Therese von Malfatti, even writing back home in Bonn for a copy of his baptisim certificate. Both Therese and her family were against the union due to class differences, however. Beethoven seems to have gotten over it rather quickly, and they remained friends.



Marie Bigot



Beethoven gave Marie the handwritten original of the "Appassionata" sonata, and their emotional connection is clear in his letters to her. In early March 1807, he invited her along on an excursion. But after her husband's jealous reaction, he wrote to the couple saying, "I would never be in a more than friendly relationship with another man's wife."




Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 (colloquially known as the Appassionata, meaning "passionate" in Italian) is among the three famous piano sonatas of his middle period

One of his greatest and most technically challenging piano sonatas, the Appassionata was considered by Beethoven to be his most tempestuous piano sonata until the twenty-ninth piano sonata (known as the Hammerklavier). 1803 was the year Beethoven came to grips with the irreversibility of his progressively deteriorating hearing.


 Elisabeth Röckel



Beethoven met the 15-year-old in early 1808. In those days, a common nickname for "Elisabeth" was "Elise" - and the wistful little piano piece "Für Elise" is one of the best-known compositions ever. At Beethoven's request, she visited him on his death bed, where he gave her a lock of his hair and his last quill. Music researchers have concluded that Fräulein Röckel is the enigmatic "Elise."




Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor (WoO 59, Bia 515) for solo piano, commonly known as "Für Elise" or "Fuer Elise": "For Elise", is identified as a bagatelle, but it is also sometimes referred to as an Albumblatt. According to a 2010 study by Klaus Martin Kopitz (de), there is evidence that the piece was written for the German soprano singer Elisabeth Röckel."Elise", as she was called by a parish priest (she called herself "Betty" too), had been a friend of Beethoven's since 1808. The singer was the first who played the title role of Beethoven's opera Fidelio. In a letter to Elisabeth she called her indeed "Elise"


 Antonie Brentano





The sister-in-law of the poet Bettina Brentano wrote in 1811 that "dearest" Beethoven visited her "nearly daily." It was to Antonie that Beethoven gave the handwritten score of the song "An die Geliebte" (To the Beloved). It's also documented that Antonie once traveled from Prague to Karlsruhe on a critical date, which could be relevant for the next woman in Beethoven's life…





An die Geliebte  for Voice and Pianoforte or Guitar

This song was written for Beethoven's friend Antonie Brentano, who was among other things, a guitarist. This song is the only piece known to have been written by Beethoven for guitar. The fact that the poem set is entitled "To the Beloved" and is an intimate love poem is taken as evidence by some that Brentano was the "Immortal Beloved," but this implication is inconclusive at best.



Immortal Beloved



Dated July 6 and 7, 1812, and penned in the Bohemian spa town of Teplitz, the letter to an "Immortal Beloved" is addressed to a woman Beethoven had met with days earlier in Prague and who had then traveled on to "K." (possibly Karlsruhe). So was it Antonie Brentano? Or Josephine Brunsvik, whom he'd also just met and who gave birth to a daughter nine months later? Music researchers still disagree.



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TEN Reasons to Read Dr. Fuddle and The Gold Baton!




10. Piano practice is more fun if you pretend that you have to turn evil monsters into harmless pets by resolving the scales.

9. You’ve memorized The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and you want another story about children being called into a magical land to save it.

8. The book explains what a glass harmonica is, something I’ve been curious about since listening to a particular version of the Carnival of the Animals which acknowledged a section that was meant to be played on a glass harmonica being played on a gluckenspiele instead.

7. You need some new creative names for foods, like Bellini Bread or Rossini Rolls.

6. Reading Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton can be a balance reminding us of the importance of music, when we otherwise read way too many novels about math and science.

5. The abundant references to musical concepts, to composers and songs can help normalize the importance of musical knowledge. It encourages a child to say “I’ve heard of that!” It raises the bar for what is seen as normal everyday knowledge.

4 . The book contains a glossary of music terms a child can refer back to.

3. The book provides positive role models. The children within it are struggling with different challenges – wanting to figure out who they are, and what they want in life. They deal with both guilt and forgiveness.

2.  The book reinforces the idea of practice, that it takes time and energy to improve one’s skills at an instrument, but at the same time that music is not just about developing technical skill and bored routine.

1.Most importantly: the book is fun. It is well written, reasonably fast paced and has a bit of a surprise at the ending.

 The book mentions many different songs, most of which one could find samples of on YouTube. If you read the book outloud with your kids, you can have a musical soundrtrack to go with it.