Beethoven’s “Für Elise” (Performed by Victoria Theodore)

Victoria Theodore  /  Performances / Jan 5

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“Für Elise.”

Few pieces define the piano as distinctly as Beethoven’s little bagatelle in A Minor. It’s been borrowed and sampled widely in popular culture, and is the favorite piece of some piano players too. 

But the title of this piece immediately begs the question: who’s Elise?! Well, there are several theories….

Who was Elise?

Most likely, Elise was Therese Malfatti, whom Beethoven proposed to the same year he wrote the piece (1810). Indeed, the manuscript originally bore the title “Für Therese.” But when a copywriter named Ludwig Nohl published the piece 40 years after Beethoven’s death, it was noted as “Für Elise.”

So, perhaps the dedication to “Elise” was a mistake (poor Therese!). But other theories about Elise’s identity exist. She may have been Elisabeth Röckel, a soprano who performed in Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio.

Another possible Elise is Elise Barensfeld, a piano student of Therese Malfatti. Beethoven may have written the relatively simple piece for her as a favor to Therese.

Therese Malfatti

Beethoven’s Deafness

“Für Elise” was written in 1810, two years before Beethoven went fully deaf in 1812. But his hearing was already limited by the time the piece was written.

Beethoven’s music got higher in pitch as his deafness progressed. Which may explain why “Für Elise” is a relatively high piece — especially the triplet A Minor arpeggios shortly after the middle section.

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Love classical music but not sure where to start? Head over to Classical Piano Quick Start, four free lessons designed for beginners taught by Victoria Theodore. Victoria is a classically trained pianist with degrees from Oberlin College and Stanford University, and has played with Beyoncé and Stevie Wonder. Start your classical journey with Victoria today!


Playing “Für Elise”

This piece was written during Beethoven’s Late Period, a time in his career when he was moving away from classical traditions and towards something more expressive and emotional, ushering in the Romantic period of classical music.

The piece has a yearning, chromatic and meandering theme which reaches up in a series of E octaves. Is this an expression of unrequited love? While we can’t answer for Beethoven, it’s one way to interpret the piece!

While “Für Elise” isn’t for absolute beginners, it is doable for intermediate-level players. We also have a simpler arrangement and some tips available here.

Introducing: PianoteCOACHES

You may have noticed a new face in our recent videos…

Victoria Theodore is a highly accomplished and versatile pianist who will be our first Coach of the year!

Victoria will be coaching classical piano, but throughout the year, you’ll meet new featured coaches who are experts in their own styles. Such as Erskine Hawkins and Summer Swee-Singh. This means you’ll get access to world-class pianists who have played with the biggest names in music. Our Coaches have shared the stage with Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, Zendaya, and more.

Want in on this? Consider becoming a member 🙂 And for the time being, happy practicing!

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Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 19 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others.

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