Who was Elise?

By | June 30, 2020

The Mystery of Beethoven’s Für Elise

Beethoven’s Für Elise – Bagatelle 25 in A minor – is one of our favorites at music scores.  Beethoven died in 1827 but the music wasn’t published until 40 years afterwards. Ludwig Nohl, a German music scholar and writer, discovered the manuscript. He published the bagatelle in his book New Beethoven Letters in 1867.

No one knows for certain who Elise was. Nohl may have even transcribed the title incorrectly and it should have read Für Therese.  The music may have been dedicated to one of the following three ladies…

Therese Malfatti von Rohrenbach zu Dezza

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Therese Malfatti von Rohrenbach zu Dezza was a student and friend of Beethoven.  She was very much the object of his affections and apparently turned down his proposal in 1810. 

Beethoven wrote a letter to her in that year which ended with the words:-

Now fare you well, respected Therese. I wish you all the good and beautiful things of this life. Bear me in memory — no one can wish you a brighter, happier life than I — even should it be that you care not at all for.  Your devoted servant and friend Beethoven. 

Her personal papers supposedly included a copy of Für Elise.

Elisabeth Röckel

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Elisabeth Röckel was a German Soprano singer who became friends with Beethoven in 1808. Many sources state that Beethoven met with her regularly and wanted to marry her.  However, they never did marry and Elisabeth later married Beethoven’s friend Johann Nepomuk Hummel.

She is named “Elis Rökel” in the register for residents of the theatre she is named .

Elise Barensfeld

Elise Barensfeld was a 13 year old who travelled on tours with Beethoven’s friend Johann Nepomuk Mälzel, and Beethoven named the song after her as a favour to Therese Malfatti who lived opposite Mälzel’s and Barensfeld’s residence.  He might have given her piano lessons…

Overall this contender seems less plausible.

Take a look on music-scores.com for over 225 downloads of Beethoven’s music. Read our post on How to play Für Elise if you are a beginner.