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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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’.
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.
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
Click here to read the letters to the "Immortal beloved".
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.
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.
The letters to the "Immortal beloved"
"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.