Ludwig van Beethoven
Für Elise („For Elise“)
Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method
Duration: About 3 Minutes
Genre: Character Piece
Time of Creation: 1808–1810/1822
World Premiere: Unknown
Table of Contents
Beethoven's Für Elise in 5 Sentences
The piano piece Für Elise („For Elise“) is one of Ludwig van Beethoven’s most famous compositions. Although it can be heard in many different contexts (and is often considered a “beginner’s piece”), Beethoven himself regarded it as a weighty composition, as evidenced by the tenacious compositional process: it stretched from 1808 (when the main melody was written) to 1810, and a new arrangement was made 12 years later. About who the dedicatee “Elise” is, can only be speculated until today: Beethoven’s close friend (and later wife of Johann Nepomuk Hummel), the singer Elisabeth Rückel, is a possibility, for example.
4 Highlights from Beethoven's Für Elise
Highlight 1: Main Part
The piece begins with that melody that probably almost everyone knows. The circular movement is the identifying feature of the composition:
Highlight 2: First Interlude
In Beethoven’s Für Elise, it is always amazing how unfamiliar (compared to the world-famous main section) the interludes are. In fact, Beethoven brings the main section a total of three times, but interpolates two interludes in between. Here is the first interlude:
Highlight 3: Second Interlude
…and here is the second interlude:
Highlight 4: Resumption of the main part
Finally, Beethoven brings the piece to a close by revisiting the main section:
3 Questions and Answers about Beethoven's Für Elise
Question 1: Is Für Elise a love song?
Not necessarily. It is not certain that Beethoven dedicated the piece to a lover. Instead, there are at least four possibilities (see next question) as to who could be the dedicatee.
Question 2: Which persons could be the dedicatees of Beethoven's Für Elise?
Therese Malfatti (Beethoven wanted to marry her in 1810, but the wedding did not take place), Elisabeth Röckel (singer, close Beethoven friend and later wife of Johann Nepomuk Hummel), Elisabet Barensfeld (singer from Regensburg) and Elise Schachner (the name of both the wife and the daughter of the first owner of the Für Elise autograph).
Question 3: Is Beethoven's Für Elise also used in other contexts?
Oh yes. Für Elise has been used many times in film, for example (Rosemary’s Baby, Death in Venice…). There are also many arrangements of the piece in pop music.
2 Recommended Recordings of Beethoven's Für Elise
Recording 1: Lang Lang (video production)
As I wrote above in the brief description, Beethoven’s Für Elise is by no means the light-hearted piece you might think it is. It is a serious composition. So it’s nice to see even world-class performers taking the piece seriously – like Lang Lang in this video:
Recording 2: Eva Sukova (Studio, 1997)
The tempo spectrum is very wide in interpretations of Beethoven’s Für Elise. For example, Eva Sukova’s recording is significantly faster than Lang Lang’s: