Immortal Beloved

As I sit in my office listening to Beethoven my mind wanders back to a great mystery of the 19th century. That is who was Beethoven's Immortal Beloved?

...Good morning, on July 7 Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, now and then joyfully, then sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us - I can live only wholly with you or not at all - Yes, I am resolved to wander so long away from you until I can fly to your arms and say that I am really at home with you, and can send my soul enwrapped in you into the land of spirits - Yes, unhappily it must be so - You will be the more contained since you know my fidelity to you. No one else can ever possess my heart - never - never - Oh God, why must one be parted from one whom one so loves. And yet my life in V is now a wretched life - Your love makes me at once the happiest and the unhappiest of men - At my age I need a steady, quiet life - can that be so in our connection?...

So reads a letter in the maestros own hand found among his letters after his death in 1827. It is not known if he never sent the letter or if the letter was read and returned.

Several women have been identified as the "Imortal Beloved", they include,
Johanna Reiss, Anna Marie Erdody, Giulietta Guicciardi, and the most likely Antonie Brentano. Interestingly enough Antoinie Brentano is one of the only real candidates who was left out of the 1994 film.

Immortal befuddled
The search goes on for Beethoven's great love
From the 7/24/00 issue of USN&WR


To most Beethoven scholars, the identity of the woman Beethoven loved desperately but could not possess–the woman he called "my angel, my all, my very self" in letters found after his death in 1827–is no mystery of history. She was Antonie Brentano, graceful Viennese wife of a Frankfurt businessman and mother of five. Beethoven met her in Vienna around 1810 and spent considerable time with her.

That has been the consensus since the late 1970s when music historian Maynard Solomon handily eliminated all other possible candidates, including frequently mentioned Josephine of Brunsvick, in his definitive biography, Beethoven. (Beethoven's sister-in law, Johanna, put forth as "Immortal Beloved" in the movie of the same name, was never a serious candidate.) Solomon's widely accepted argument makes it clear that only Brentano could have been in the right place at the right time in 1812.

No notes. Now comes word that the woman who for more than a year derailed Beethoven's composing and sent researchers in search of clues for nearly 150 more years may be a mystery after all. Next month a group of Czech and American music scholars will publish an essay claiming that a woman heretofore unmentioned is the true Beloved.

"This candidate has never before been suggested and is the strongest to date," says William Meredith, head of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University in California. Fearful of tipping off other experts, he would say little else about Beethoven's great love other than that she had no children, which is significant because of theories that the composer fathered a son with Brentano, who gave birth less than nine months after the Immortal Beloved letters were written in July 1812. Josephine of Brunsvick also had a daughter several months after the letters were written; Beethoven may have tutored the child at the piano.

It is not clear whether the new revelations will lead to a better understanding of the relationship. There is no proof Beethoven was sexually involved with his Beloved–or anyone else for that matter. Yet she was the object of his deep desire to be married. Without her, Beethoven gave up hope for such a life. When he died of liver failure in 1827, the only trace of the Immortal Beloved was the three-part love letter he left behind, signed "Ever thine, Ever mine, Ever ours."

de Brantigny

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