The Full Wiki

Immortal Beloved: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Immortal Beloved is the name given by composer Ludwig van Beethoven to an unknown person in three famous love letters. Among the possible candidates are Johanna van Beethoven, Antonie Brentano, Thérèse von Brunswick and Anna-Marie Erdödy.


The evidence

The sole documentary evidence for the "Immortal Beloved" is a soul-searching and impassioned letter Beethoven wrote over a period of three days from the Bohemian spa of Teplitz (probably dateable to July 1812, though the year is not given) addressed to an unnamed woman with whom the week before he had had a meeting in Prague or Vienna, and with whom in the letter he is making plans to meet in a place with initial "K", which most writers, following Maynard Solomon, have assumed to be Karlsbad. The wording of the letter suggests an existing loving relationship of long standing. In its pages, Beethoven broaches and discusses the possibility for, and impediments to, marriage:

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?.. (excerpt)

Upon Beethoven's death in 1827, the letter was discovered among his private papers, strongly suggesting either that it was never sent or that it was returned to him subsequently by the addressee. The currently fading academic favour for Antonie Brentano as the putative recipient may be attributed to the arguments adduced in an influential book by the Beethoven scholar Maynard Solomon.

Solomon[1] writes:

She must be a woman well known to Beethoven in Vienna; she must have been in Prague in the first week of July 1812; and she must have been in the Bohemian spa town of Karlsbad in the weeks following.

It should be borne in mind that Beethoven never refers to Karlsbad in the letter by name, instead using the initial "K", which one researcher has erroneously suggested might refer instead to Klosterneuburg, supposedly "the nearest post-stop to Countess Anna-Marie Erdödy's estate at Jedlersee". This hypothesis however is absolutely unfounded, because since Klosterneuburg could only be reached from Jedlesee via Vienna and Kahlenbergerdorf (there was no bridge across the Danube between Korneuburg and Klosterneuburg), the next post-stop to Jedlesee was of course the so-called "Hauptmaut" in Leopoldstadt in Vienna.

Thus Solomon sums up the three primary requirements for her identification, based on his own reading of evidence contained in the letter. But his reasoning is marred by a major flaw: the letters from the Brentano family that Klaus Martin Kopitz published in 2001, in a valiant effort to add some new documents to the debate, show that Antonie cannot have been the “Immortal Beloved.”[2] She was a happily married wife and mother whose brief stay in Prague in July 1812 (less than one day) was spent in searching for an educator for her eleven-year-old son Georg: she had arrived with her husband, five-year-old daughter Fanny, and a maid on 3 July and they all left together for Karlsbad at 6 o’clock the next morning. Where did she have time that night for a tryst with Beethoven? As has been repeatedly argued, her candidacy, which includes the improbable scenario of a “ménage à trois” in Karlsbad,[3] makes no psychological sense.[4]

An additional (external) requirement suggested by Solomon is that the woman possibly is the "A" mentioned by Beethoven in Anton Gräffer's copy of Beethoven's Tagebuch (diary) entry of 1812:

"In the way with A., everything goes to ruin."

Since it is not even sure that Gräffer's transcription of the entry is correct, the letter "A" alone cannot provide basis for a reliable identification. In fact, Beethoven wrote the letter "A" in his found letters in the old German script, which is very different from the Latin form of "A", and the "A" may have been a musical notation. Recent research suggests that the "A" was actually a "St" that referred to Josephine von Stackelberg's husband Count Stackelberg.[5]

Antonie and alternative claimants

Among the many obstacles to acceptance of Solomon's claim is that Antonie Brentano is not the only woman with initial "A" who was close to Beethoven during the period in question (1811-1812), and it is known that she was called by the affectionate name Toni within her circle of family and friends. Thus Beethoven, if referring to Antonie, would more likely have employed the initial "T". It should perhaps also be noted that when Antonie left Vienna again for Frankfurt in 1812, she left for good, and there is no record of further personal or written contact between the composer and herself after that time, though it is clear from his dedications that he continued to consider himself a close friend of the Brentano family.

A second and even more significant obstacle to acceptance of Solomon's claim is that Beethoven told a friend in 1816 that he had met the love of his life (certainly the Immortal Beloved) five years before. The definitive Beethoven biographer Alexander Wheelock Thayer quoted two sources that showed that Antonie knew Beethoven before 1810. The first was a statement by the American consul in Frankfurt that he had ascertained from the Brentano family that Beethoven knew Antonie since even before her marriage in 1798. The other was a written confirmation from the Brentano family to the consul that Beethoven knew Antonie prior to her moving to Vienna in 1809 as a result of his long friendship with her father. Solomon ignored the consul's statement to Thayer, and mistranslated the family confirmation so as to say that Antonie only met Beethoven after she moved to Vienna in 1809 to care for her father. The Thayer sources are set out verbatim in Volume 3 of the German edition of Thayer republished in 1923 (Leipzig, Breitkopf & Haertl).

Gail S. Altman puts forward a case for Anna-Marie — along with an exhaustive refutation of Solomon's claims for Antonie Brentano — in a study[6] devoted to the question of the mysterious woman's identity and Beethoven's relationships in general, drawing particular attention to the composer's record of honourable conduct in all his dealings with married women. Altman goes on to underline that it would have been against Beethoven's deepest precepts to betray a friend (Franz Brentano) by carrying on an affair with his wife (Antonie) - as Solomon imputes.

In 2002, the Beethoven Journal, affiliated with the American Beethoven Society, published a paper contending that the Immortal Beloved was in fact Antonie's half-sister-in-law Bettina Brentano.[7] Bettina had published three letters she claimed to have received from Beethoven. One of them has been found, and is identical to what she published. In the found letter, Beethoven acknowledged already receiving from her two letters, and begged her to write to him again "soon and often". He said that he had carried one of her letters around with him all summer and that it made him "often supremely happy". In its closing words, he addressed her in the intimate German "du-form", which so far as is known, he never used in any letter to another woman except the Immortal Beloved. If the third letter from Beethoven that Bettina published, which has not been found, is genuine, it would conclusively prove that Bettina was his Immortal Beloved, because that third letter was written only a few weeks after he wrote his letter to the Immortal Beloved, and its language is completely consistent.

Antonie Brentano

Antonie Brentano, Portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1808

Antonie von Birkenstock Brentano (April 28, 1780, Vienna – April 12, 1869, Frankfurt am Main) was the daughter of Johann-Melchior von Birkenstock. She is one of the likelier of the many candidates put forward by scholars as Beethoven's Unsterbliche Geliebte or "Immortal Beloved".[8] Antonie's husband, Frankfurt banker Franz Brentano, was a good friend of Beethoven during the family's short stay in Vienna and his half-sister, Bettina von Arnim née Brentano, may have introduced them in 1811.[citation needed] After moving with her husband to Frankfurt, Antonie returned to Vienna to minister to her dying father and remained for two years afterwards to settle his estate, during which time her friendship with Beethoven was re-established.[citation needed]

Beethoven dedicated the Diabelli Variations Op. 120 to her and his Piano Sonata Op. 109 to her daughter Maximiliane. Her handwriting has been identified on a manuscript copy of the song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte ("To the Distant Beloved"), in which the following is written: "Requested by me from the author on March 2, 1812". On June 26, 1812, Beethoven wrote out an affectionate dedicatory message to her daughter on the manuscript for his Piano Trio in B flat (WoO 39).[citation needed]


  1. ^ Solomon, Maynard Beethoven,1977
  2. ^ Klaus Martin Kopitz, Antonie Brentano in Wien (1809-1812). Neue Quellen zur Problematik „Unsterbliche Geliebte“, in: BONNER BEETHOVEN-STUDIEN 2 (2001), pp. 115-146, at p. 137.
  3. ^ See the important discussion by Klaus Kropfinger, in: Beethoven, Kassel 2001, p. 125
  4. ^ See in particular Marie-Elisabeth Tellenbach, Beethoven und seine „Unsterbliche Geliebte“ Josephine Brunswick, Zürich 1983, pp. 33-40 and passim. See also Tellenbach’s two-part article Psychoanalysis and the Historiocritical Method: On Maynard Solomon’s Image of Beethoven, in: THE BEETHOVEN NEWSLETTER 8/3 (Winter 1993), pp. 84-92, and ibid. 9/3 (Winter 1994), pp. 119-127.
  5. ^ Steblin, Rita, "Auf diese Art mit A geht alles zu Grunde. "A New Look at Beethoven's Diary and the "Immortal Beloved", Beethoven-Studien 6, (Bonn: Verlag Beethoven-Haus, 2007)
  6. ^ Altman, Gail S. Beethoven: A Man of His Word - Undisclosed Evidence for his Immortal Beloved, Anubian Press 1996; ISBN 1-888071-01-X
  7. ^ Beethoven Journal, Winter 2002, vol. 17, Issue 2
  8. ^ Oakley Beahrs, Virginia: The Immortal Beloved Riddle Reconsidered, Musical Times, Vol. 129, No. 1740 (Feb., 1988), pp. 64-70

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address