Concertisti Classica, la musica classica in Italia
Classical Music in Italy
Close this search box.
Beethoven. Some things you may not know about Für Elise
It is one of the most famous pieces in piano music, but “Für Elise” is much more than you might expect.
From the very first notes, Für Elise is instantly recognizable and may even be the most famous melody ever written!
Did you know that when Beethoven composed this short piece for piano, he put it away in a drawer, never to play it again?
Curious how it passed from 'forgotten nonsense' to 'universally known'? Have you ever wondered what makes it so unforgettable?
Ludwig van Beethoven wrote Für Elise in 1810 as a small piece for piano and then set it aside with many other drafts. We only have it because a musicologist found it and published it in 1867. The musicologist was Ludwig Nohl, and he claimed that the original autographed manuscript, now lost, was dated April 27, 1810.
Why has this piece become so popular since its release?
Musically, Für Elise is deeply melodic and full of a nostalgic feeling, it has a relatively simple harmony that makes it very accessible and not overly demanding. At the same time, since the first part is easy to learn even for a novice pianist, but also beautiful, it is often given by piano teachers around the world, perpetuating its fame. And finally, the romantic and mysterious possibilities of her name make us question Elise's identity and her composer's love life!

The story of Für Elise
In 1810, at the age of 40, Ludwig van Beethoven was already known as one of the greatest composers of all time. He was already afflicted with the horrible tinnitus that preceded his deafness.
On April 27, 1810, Beethoven wrote a bagatelle - a small, unimportant song - and wrote down the label "Für Elise" in his messy handwriting. But he never released this piece of music. It remained in a drawer until 1822, when Beethoven revisited it slightly and put it back in the same drawer. In 1827 Beethoven died and his bagatelle never saw the light.
It was not until 1867, 40 years after Beethoven's death, that the musicologist Ludwig Nohl found the piece of music and published it.

Who was Elise?
So who was the mysterious Elise to whom Beethoven would dedicate this composition? There is no definitive answer. There are several theories.

One is that Beethoven had a love affair with a woman named Therese Malfatti. She was his pupil, and he fell in love with her at the time of the composition of Für Elise. We are not entirely sure how things went, but we know that he proposed, but she said no!
Anyway, Therese later married someone else. Thus, the most accepted theory is that our friend Ludwig Nohl misinterpreted Beethoven's messy handwriting and that the piece was actually labeled "Für Therese" and not "Für Elise".

Another is that a few years before writing Für Elise, Beethoven befriended an opera singer named Elisabeth Röckel, whose nickname may have been Elise (Elizabeth to Elise doesn't seem like much, but we don't have any evidence that someone actually called her Elise). Beethoven and Rockel were close friends until he married Beethoven's enemy-friend Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Perhaps Für Elise was written in the middle of this friendship, or as a way to say goodbye.

Finally, the less likely scenario is that Beethoven wrote the piece for another woman nicknamed Elise - Juliane Katharine Elisabet Barensfeld, who used "Elise" as a variant of the name. She was a musical prodigy and close to Therese Malfatti and plausibly she could have been a pupil of hers. This theory reinforces the fact that Beethoven was willing to do anything for his one great love, Therese.

So, since there isn't enough evidence to conclusively prove who he dedicated this sad and poignant love song to, probably the most reasonable thing is that he wrote it for the lost love of his life, Therese.


A bagatella or bagattella, in French bagatelle, is a short musical composition, usually for piano, but also used in chamber music. Generally it has a very simple formal structure and light character.
Among the best known bagatelle are those composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. Another important contribution to this form comes from Anton Webern with his Six Bagattelle op.9 for string quartet, composed in 1913. In the context of contemporary music, the six bagatelle for wind quintet by György Ligeti (1953) should be mentioned. and the five bagatelle for guitar composed by William Walton, and performed in 1972.

Source Classical Concertists

  • Not to be missed




    Concert Season


    Arena di Verona Opera Festival

    From 7 June to 7 September '24

    Verdi Festival of Parma and Busseto, XXIV Edition

    From 21 September to 20 October '24

    LacMus Festival 2024

    From 9 July to 21 July '24

    Bologna Festival 2024 – 43rd edition

    From 18 March to 6 November '24

    Lucca Classica X edition

    From 24 April Ended 28 April '24