Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Letters to the Editor

Academic journal article The Beethoven Journal

Letters to the Editor

Article excerpt

Concerning Various Aspects of the Immortal Beloved Question (Including the Candidacy of Almerie Esterhazy) and Beethoven's Hair

To the Editor:

The Summer 2000 Journal's leading article brings a provocatively fresh approach to the longbaffling Immortal Beloved question. Certain reservations come to mind, however, that appear to me to redound against serious consideration of either Almerie Esterházy or Antonie Brentano as Beethoven's beloved. Following the format of your own Miscellanea, here are a few pertinent items of mine.

Item 1. The one Beethoven met in 1811 and longed to make his wife, judging by a certain question-and-answer exchange five years later with Fanny's father, seems an unlikely clue in attempting to identify his Immortal Beloved, considering that Giannatasio's question concerned not deep love, but any possible thoughts of marriage.

Often overlooked is the literal wording of Fanny's report that her father thought Beethoven could rescue himself from his unfortunate domestic condition only by marriage ("a brave loving wife" in the journalistic tradition], "did he know anybody, etc." although Fanny, too, romanticized Beethoven's reply, it was apparently marriage itself he longed for - the Hausligkeit (home life) of a later journal.

Whoever fit the picture of a suitable wife would most likely be musical, single and free of the onus of nobility; somebody "of my class," Beethoven had assured a friend a decade earlier as a condition of marriage. This stipulation appears to preclude young Countess Almerie Esterházy, even if Beethoven did possibly meet her in 1811 and not as alternatively supposed at Eisenstadt in 1807, or several years later on his brother's street in Rauhensteingasse.

He could hardly have been thinking of firmly-married Antonie Brentano, despite Solomon's concerted effort to establish a meeting in 1810, rather than, as widely accepted, in her father's house as a girl.

Nor could she have been Josephine Brunswick, though she is still a plausible Immortal Beloved, thanks in part, to the remarkable similarity of wording and tone of that love letter and those Beethoven wrote his "Angel, his All," (meine Ich [self]) - at the time of the one known romance of his life during Josephine's widowhood. However, not only had Beethoven met her long before this, but early in 1810 she had remarried for her children's sake a titled baron.

So great a blow appears to have precipitated Beethoven's so-called courtship period, in earnest quest for a congenial wife and the joy of a home of his own. Who then might be the one he so desperately hoped to marry after their meeting in 1811? It is a pertinent fact that the only woman he is positively known to have met in precisely 1811 was the young Berlin singer, Amalie Sebald, who seems to have had all the appropriate assets. She was not only talented but had as well the dual attributes of being both single and untitled.

This is not to equate Amalie with the Immortal Beloved, but simply to see in her an ideal mate as apparently Beethoven did himself. "A wife, to a man of Beethoven's nature was absolutely necessary to the full human life," noted critic J. W. N. Sullivan, to whom it seemed that what he craved more than any particular woman was the married state itself.

Item 2. Who may have been in Beethoven's mind while composing his moving song: "To the Beloved" Lite in 1811 remains a mystery.

That Antonie Brentano apparently asked for a copy of her own is a far cry from an autographed love offering composed for her. And the song's sad wording hardly tallies with the exuberant state of mind or even "serious stimulation of his feelings" that Pulkert perceives in connection with Almerie at this time - a consideration of some importance, given Goldschmidt's conviction that "all Beethoven's songs were biographical." Although Amalie Sebald (his nominee) is a possibility timewise, there is no known evidence of Beethoven's ever having called her, or anybody but Josephine, Beloved. …

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