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Beethoven

The argument against her being the Immortal beloved is that Beethoven would have had to have been carrying on this affair right under her husband's nose - Franz Brentano was present throughout at Prague and Karlsbad with Antonie, along with their daughter. Beethoven had the greatest respect (as did Antonie) for Franz and he regarded him as a personal friend - is it likely that he would have written to him in 1817 "I greatly miss your company and that of your wife and your dear children" if he had been having an affair with his wife? Nor could Beethoven have been discussing the prospect of marriage with her since the Austrian government would not have granted a divorce - her husband had no criminal convictions, and their is no evidence of adultery in either case. Having children made it even more unlikely they would have received a divorce. Beethoven is also known to have condemned adultery on many occasions and is surely unlikely to have regarded the affair as "truly founded in heaven - and what is more, as strongly cemented as the firmament of heaven" if it were adulterous? In the first letter Beethoven also says "remain my faithful, one and only treasure, my all as I am yours" - how was this possible when she was already married?

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Josephine von Brunswick (1779–1821)

Beethoven first became acquainted with the Brunsvik family in May of 1799. After the death of her first husband Count Deym in 1804, Josephine continued living in Vienna until the summer of 1808. During this period, her friendship with Beethoven intensified, and the composer became very much in love with her and probably entertained hopes of marriage. In 1949, 13 previously unknown letters from Beethoven to Josephine were discovered - written in 1807, they are of a passionate nature similar in style to the letters to the 'Immortal Beloved', however there is one important difference; throughout the letters to Josephine, the formal 'Sie' instead of the intimate 'Du' (used in the 'Immortal beloved' letters of 1812) is used. For a long time Josephine was considered (and still is by some) to be the 'Immortal Beloved' - the fact that 9 months after the 'Immortal beloved' letters were written, Josephine gave birth to a daughter, Minona on 9th April 1813 ( who later turned out to be a fine musician and piano teacher) added fuel to the speculation. Josephine had however remarried in 1810 to Count Von Stackelberg, but the marriage was disastrous and the couple separated in 1813.

Josephine Brunswick
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Therese Brunswick

Therese von Brunswick (1775–1861)

(Picture: Beethoven-Haus, Bonn) She too was considered a candidate to be the 'Immortal beloved'. However, she wrote in her diary 12 July 1817 : 'Josephine must suffer remorse on account of Luigi's sorrow - his wife ! What could she not have made of this hero !' and much later on 4th Feb 1846 : '...Beethoven! It seems like a dream that he was the friend, the intimate of our house - a stupendous spirit! Why did not my sister J., as the widow Deym, accept him as her husband ? She would have been much happier than she was with St[ackelberg]. Maternal love caused her to forgo her own happiness.' Therese never married and her own diaries imply that she considered her sister Josephine to be the Immortal beloved.

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Countess Giulietta Guicciardi (1784–1856)

(Picture: Beethoven-Haus Bonn, Collection H.C. Bodmer). A cousin of the Brunsvik's , Giulietta was 17 when she became for a time a pupil of Beethovens, and he fell in love with her. He dedicated the 'Moonlight' sonata to her, but it was not actually written with her in mind, so not too much emphasis should be placed on that. She married Count Gallenberg in 1803 and disappeared from Beethoven's life - though he never forgot her, as an amusing entry in the conversation books many years later proves. She is not considered to be the Immortal beloved today, though until the date of the letters (1812) was properly established, she was indeed thought to be a strong candidate - Schindler claimed that the letters had been written to her at a Hungarian spa in 1801.

Giulietta Guicciardi
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Dorothea Ertmann

Dorothea von Ertmann (1781–1849)

(Picture: Beethoven-haus, Bonn) She was a gifted pupil of Beethoven's from 1803. He referred to her as Dorothea Caecilia and she was a particularly fine interpreter of his works - she received the dedication to the sonata Op.101 in A (1816). She had married Baron Stephan Von Ertmann in 1798, and they left Vienna in 1824 to settle in Milan.

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Countess Anna Marie Erdödy (1779–1837)

She married the Hungarian count Peter Erdödy in 1796. She was an excellent pianist and admirer of Beethoven's works. She gave private concerts in her apartment in the Krugerstrasse at which his works were constantly performed; for a time in the Autumn and winter of 1808/9 Beethoven had rooms in this apartment. Beethoven often visited the Erdödy family country estate at Jedlersee (nr. Vienna) . The countess settled in Croatia in 1815 and then Padua in 1816, after 1820, she appears to have left Austria for good. Beethoven dedicated the 2 piano trios Op.70 and the 2 'cello sonatas Op.102 to her.

Anna Marie Erdödy
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Amalie Sebald

Amalie Sebald (1770–1827)

She was a singer from Berlin and had met Beethoven at Teplitz in 1811 and 1812 - they developed a friendship and several letters to her are in existence. One dated 16th Sept 1812 is completely different in tone to the Immortal beloved letters, he simply signs himself as ‘your friend, Beethoven’.

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Therese Malfatti (1792–1851)

Her father was the cousin of Dr.Giovanni Malfatti (who had become a friend of Beethoven's in 1808 and treated him in his final illness of 1827). It is possible that Beethoven had hoped to marry Therese in 1810 and that the famous piece 'Fur Elise' was written for her. There were strong objections to the union from her family and she later married Baron Von Drosdick in 1816.

Therese Malfatti
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Beethoven Reference Site  © 2010

The letters were addressed to someone at K. - most scholars have interpreted this as Karlsbad, where the Brentanos were staying and where Beethoven himself went to join them on July 25th. Although this is the most likely,  there are other possibilities such as Klosterneuberg 10k north of Vienna, or numerous other towns in the Czech republic beginning with K. When Beethoven wrote his letter to the beloved stating, “we shall probably see each other soon,” he had no intention of going to Karlsbad himself three weeks later. That is evident in the letter he wrote to a young child called Emilie on July 17th. He also wrote to the Archduke Rudolph on August 12. “....however, my physician, Staudenheim, commanded me to go to Karlsbad and from there to here (Franzenbad) ---- What excursions! and yet but little certainty touching an improvement in my condition.”. At the time Beethoven actually wrote his letter his plans were stay in Teplitz till the middle of August. So when he wrote, “we shall probably see each other soon,” he more likely meant that his beloved would be coming to Teplitz to see him, not that he was going to meet her.

Beethoven's destination on leaving Vienna (June 28/29) was Teplitz where he was to meet Goethe. On July 1st he arrived in Prague. On the 2nd he had a meeting with Karl Varnhagen von Ense who was negotiating his annuity settlement. On the 3rd, the Brentanos arrived in Prague en route for Karlsbad and Beethoven failed to attend a pre-arranged meeting with Varnhagen that evening. He left Prague on the morning of July 4th and arrived in Teplitz at 4 a.m on July 5th. On the 6th and 7th the three famous letters were written to the 'eternally beloved'. Between the 19th and 25th Beethoven was with Goethe, but left Teplitz soon after to stay in the same guest house as the Brentanos at Karlsbad. On August 6th Beethoven and the violinist Polledro gave a benefit concert in aid of victims of a fire in Baden. He went with the Brentanos from Karlsbad to Franzensbad on the 7th August. On September 8th Beethoven returned alone to Karlsbad and again met with Goethe. On September 16th Beethoven was back again in Teplitz where he fell ill, and was tended by the singer Amalie Sebald. In October Beethoven visited his brother in Linz and complained to the police about his brother's immoral relationship with his housekeeper. In response, his brother promptly married her! In November the Brentanos left Vienna to settle in Frankfurt and Beethoven returned to Vienna.  

Click here to read the letters to the "Immortal beloved".

 

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The Candidates

The women listed below have all been considered possible candidates at one time or another - it is possible that the Immortal beloved was none of these.

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Antonia Brentano

Antonia Brentano (von Birkenstock) (1780–1869)

The portrait on the left (Beethoven-Haus Bonn, Collection H.C. Bodmer) was found amongst Beethoven's possessions. Toni (as she was known) married Franz Brentano in 1798 and according to Maynard Solomon, She was the 'Immortal beloved'. She was living in Vienna from 1809-1812 and had met Beethoven in 1810 and a strong friendship developed between them. Toni Brentano was in Prague with her husband and daughter from July 1st to July 4th 1812 at exactly the same time as Beethoven. The Brentanos were also in Karlsbad from July 5th onwards. Toni is the only woman who meets the requirement of arriving in Karlsbad shortly after Beethoven's arrival in Teplitz. Beethoven arrived in Karlsbad on July 25th and stayed in the same guesthouse as the Brentanos. There are a number of other clues that point towards Antonie Brentano. 'An die Geliebte' (To the Beloved) WoO 140, was composed by Beethoven in December 1811; in the corner of the manuscript, in Antonie's writing are the words "Requested by me from the author on March 2nd, 1812". After Beethoven's death, two portraits were discovered in his desk - One is of the Countess Giuletta Guicciardi and the other was previously thought to be Countess Erdody but is now considered to be Antonie Brentano.

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The letters to the "Immortal beloved"

Letter "My Angel, my all, my other self..."

 

The 3 letters to an unknown recipient at Karlsbad - the 'Immortal beloved' (Eternally beloved would be more accurate) were discovered along with the Heiligenstadt Testament  immediately after Beethoven's death and they have been a source of endless speculation and intrigue ever since - who was this women who meant so much to Beethoven ? Theories abound, and for a while the date of the letters was not even certain, but eventually through research it was ascertained that they must have been written in July 1812 whilst Beethoven was staying at Teplitz.  

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