Immortal Beloved

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The Immortal Beloved (German "Unsterbliche Geliebte") is the mysterious addressee[1] of a love letter which composer Ludwig van Beethoven wrote on 6–7 July 1812 in Teplitz. The apparently unsent letter was found in the composer's estate after his death, after which it remained in the hands of Anton Schindler until his death, was subsequently willed to his sister, and was sold by her in 1880 to the Berlin State Library, where it remains today.[2] The letter is written in pencil and consists of three parts.

Since Beethoven did not specify a year, nor a location, an exact dating of the letter and identification of the addressee was speculative until the 1950s, when an analysis of the paper's watermark yielded the year, and by extension the place. Scholars have since this time been divided on the intended recipient of the Immortal Beloved letter. The two candidates favored by most contemporary scholars are Antonie Brentano[3] and Josephine Brunsvik.[4] Other candidates who have been conjectured, with various degrees of mainstream scholarly support, are Julie ("Giulietta") Guicciardi,[5] Therese Malfatti,[6] Anna-Marie Erdödy,[7] Bettina Brentano,[8] and several others.[9]

The Letter[edit]

The entire letter is written on 10 small pages, in Beethoven's rather inconsistent handwriting.[10] The first section occupies four pages. In the following, the dashes and underlined words are as in Beethoven's manuscript.

6th of July in the morning.
My angel, my everything, my very self. – Only a few words today, and with a pencil (with yours) – only tomorrow will my accommodation be known with certainty, what a worthless waste of time like this. – Why this deep grief, where necessity speaks. – Can our love exist but by sacrifices, by not demanding everything, can you change it, that you are not completely mine, that I am not completely yours. – Oh God, look upon beautiful Nature and calm your mind about what must be. – Love demands everything and completely, and with good reason, that is how it is for me with you, and for you with me. – Only you forget too easily, that I must live for myself and for you as well, if we were wholly united, you would not feel this as painfully, just as little as I would. – My journey was terrible, I did not arrive here until yesterday morning at 4 o'clock; there was a lack of horses, therefore the mail coach chose a different route, but what a terrible road, at the last but one stop I was warned not to travel by night, they made me fear a forest, but that only tempted me even more – and I was wrong, the car broke down on the terrible road, bottomless, country track, <and the> without such postilions as I had, I would have been left stranded. – Esterházy had on the other, usual, road leading to here the same problems with 8 horses, that I had with four. – However, I derived also some pleasure from this, as always, when I have overcome some difficulty. – Now quickly from the exterior to the interior. We will probably see each other soon, only, today I cannot convey to you my observations which I made during these few days about my life – would our hearts always be close to each other, I probably would have no such thoughts. My heart is full with so much to tell you – Oh – There are moments when I feel that language is nothing at all – Cheer up – Remain my faithful only darling, my everything, as I for you; the rest is up to the Gods, what must be for us and what is in store for us. –
your faithful ludwig -

The following section continues on pages 5 and 6 through half of page 7. The segment enclosed in ⟨angle brackets⟩ below is heavily crossed-out in the manuscript.

Monday evening on the 6th of July -.
You are suffering, you my dearest creature – Only now do I realize that letters must be posted early in the morning. Mondays – Thursdays – the only days when the mail coach goes from here to K. – You are suffering. – Oh, wherever I am, you are with me, I talk to myself and to you, arrange [it] that I can live with you – what a life!!!! as it is!!!! without you – Haunted by the kindness of people here and there that, I believe, I do not deserve and do not wish to deserve. – Humility of man towards man – it pains me – and when I look at myself in the context of the universe, what am I and what is He – who is called the Greatest – and yet – herein is again the divine in mankind. – I weep when I think that you will probably not before Saturday receive the first message from me. – As much as you love me – I love you even more deeply – but – but never hide yourself from me. – Good night – bathing I must go to sleep – <oh be with me be with me>. – Oh God – so near! so far! Is not our love a true edifice in Heaven – but also as firm as the firmament. –

The final section of the letter resumes after a horizontal line on page 7. The handwriting on the last page is much larger and more difficult to decipher, showing a marked difference from the relatively more orderly page 9. The entire tenth page is thus taken up by only a small amount of text (beginning with "life - my everything" in the translation below).

Good morning on the 7th of July.
while still in bed my thoughts turn towards you my Immortal Beloved, now and then happy, then sad again, waiting whether Fate might answer us. – I can only live either wholly with you or not at all, yes, I have resolved to stray about far away until I can fly into your arms, and feel at home with you, and send my soul embraced by you into the realm of the Spirits. – Yes, unfortunately it must be. – You will compose yourself, all the more since you know my faithfulness to you, never can another own my heart, never – never. – Oh God why do I have to separate from someone whom I love so much, and yet my life in V[ienna] as it is now is a miserable life. – Your love makes me at once most happy and most unhappy. – At my age, I would now need some conformity regularity in my life – can this exist in our relationship? – Angel, I just learned that the post goes every day – and I must therefore conclude so that you get the l[etter] straightway – be patient, only through quiet contemplation of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together – be calm – love me – today – yesterday. – What yearning with tears for you – you – you – my life – my everything – farewell – oh continue to love me – never misjudge the most faithful heart of your Beloved


Forever thine
forever mine
forever us. [11]

Text Analysis[edit]

After Schmidt-Görg (1957) published 13 then-unknown love letters by Beethoven to Josephine Brunsvik, it became clear that the one to the "Immortal Beloved" was not the only love letter authored by him. That Josephine could have been the unknown woman was subsequently suggested by analyses of similarities in wordings and phrases between earlier letters (from 1804 to 1809) and this mysterious one from 1812, mainly in the monographs by Massin (1955, 1970), Goldschmidt (2014, pp. 134–146) and Tellenbach (1983, p. 103 f.):[12]

  • My angel (used again towards the end of this letter): see "farewell angel – of my heart – of my life." (#219, April 1805) – this also uses the intimate German "Du" ("Leb wohl Engel"); "farewell angel of my heart" (#220, April/May 1805).
  • My everything, you - you - my life – my everything: see "you – you - my everything, my happiness ... my solace – my everything" (#214, 1st quarter 1805); "dear J. everything – everything for you" (#297, after 20 September 1807).
  • Esterhazy: This Hungarian Prince was well-known to the Hungarian Brunsviks.
  • remain my faithful only, your faithful ludwig, since you know my faithfulness to you, never can another own my heart, never – never, never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved L., forever thine, forever mine, forever us: see "Long – Long – may our love last – it is so noble – so much founded on mutual respect and friendship – even great similarity in so many things, in thoughts and feelings – oh let me hope that your heart – will continue to beat for me for a long time – mine can only – stop – to beat for you – if – it does not beat any more – beloved J" (#216, March/April 1805); "your faithful Bethwn" (#279, May 1807); "your faithful Bthwn, eternally devoted to you" (#294, 20 September 1807). Clearly refers to a pre-existing long-term relationship.
  • You are suffering you my dearest ... you are suffering - Oh, wherever I am, you are with me: Josephine was not only frequently ill, but especially desperate around that time because her husband had left her.
  • but – but never hide yourself from me: During 1807, Josephine began to withdraw from Beethoven due to family pressure; she was not home when Beethoven came to see her (see #294 and #307).
  • I must go to bed <o go with me go with me –>: the heavily crossed-out words are probably the strongest indication that their love had been consummated (and may explain the birth of Minona, Josephine’s seventh child, exactly nine months later).

The Period of Speculation (1827 to 1969)[edit]

In his biography of Beethoven, Schindler (1840) suspected Julie ("Giulietta") Guicciardi.[13] to be the "Immortal Beloved". But research by Tellenbach (1983)[14] indicates that her cousin Franz von Brunsvik may have suggested Giulietta as the possible "Immortal Beloved" (when talking to Schindler), keen as he was to distract any suspicion away from his sister Josephine, with whom Beethoven had been hopelessly in love from 1799 to ca. 1809/1810; but this was always kept a secret, and in fact was not known for certain until 1957. Furthermore, Schindler's biography was long ago found to be extremely unreliable, with many well-documented forgeries (including the destruction of documents, letters and conversation books).[15] Therese von Brunsvik, who had been her sister Josephine's lifelong companion and was probably the only one who knew all about her love for Beethoven, commented on the publication of Schindler's conjecture: "Three letters by Beethoven, allegedly to Giulietta. Could they be hoaxes?”[16]

Tenger (1890) published a fictional diary of Therese which was subsequently dismissed as a "chimera",[17] but La Mara (1909) published Therese's authentic memoirs, which show her full of admiration and adoration of Beethoven. This, together with interviews of some of the Brunsvik descendants, led her to the conclusion that Therese must have been the "Immortal Beloved."

At first most researchers,including key Beethoven mid-1800s biographer Alexander Wheelock Thayer,[18] also thought Therese was the "Immortal Beloved," but Thayer (at least) wisely refrained from further speculations. He thought the letter must have been written around 1806-07. Thomas-San-Galli (1909, 1910) checked out the official listings of guests in Bohemia, and at first (in 1909) concluded that Amalie Sebald was the "Immortal Beloved." (Beethoven met her later several times and wrote her a few friendly letters, but these were certainly not love letters.) Amalie was definitely not in Prague at the beginning of July 1812, and Cooper (2000, p. 416) consequently ruled her out as a candidate. Thomas-San-Galli then speculated (in 1910) that it might instead have been Therese, who he thought could have (secretly) traveled to Prague.

Doubts were raised by de Hevesy (1910), who ruled out Therese,[19] and by Unger (1910) against Amalie Sebald.[20] A summary of the older literature can be found in Forbes (1967, pp. 1088–1092).

There was also a forged Beethoven letter by Paul Bekker in Die Musik,[21] But it was already shown to be a hoax by Newman (1911) –- a last-ditch effort to salvage the discredited Guicciardi hypothesis.

The date of the "Immortal Beloved" letter –- 6/7 July 1812 -– has meanwhile been firmly established, not only by watermarks and references,[22] but also by a later letter by Beethoven to Varnhagen, which suggests he must have met his "Immortal Beloved" on 3 July 1812: "I am sorry, dear V., that I could not spend the last evening in Prague with you, and I myself found it impolite, but a circumstance I could not foresee prevented me."[23]

La Mara (1920), after discovering more letters and notes in the Brunsvik estates, was now convinced "that ... Josephine widowed Countess Deym was Beethoven’s ‘Immortal Beloved’".[24]

Czeke (1938), for the first time, published Therese’s diary notes ending in 1813; some were known already to Rolland (1928).[25] and concluded that Beethoven was in love with Josephine, but nonetheless he tended towards Therese as the "Immortal Beloved".

Kaznelson (1954) evaluated more of the documents in the Brunsvik estates, and even though he thought that Rahel Varnhagen was behind the "Distant Beloved" he concluded that the "Immortal Beloved" must have been Josephine mainly because her daughter Minona was born exactly nine months after the encounter with Beethoven and her husband Baron Stackelberg was away. Kaznelson arrived at his conclusion even though H C Bodmer in Zürich, owner of the "13 Letters" after World War II (see following), would not allow him access to them.[26]

Editha & Richard Sterba (1954), using psychoanalysis, argued for nephew Karl as the "Immortal Beloved".[27]

Steichen (1959) identified Marie Erdödy to have been a lifelong beloved of Beethoven, and thus could also be the "Immortal Beloved".[28]

Marek (1969) argued the case for Dorothea Ertmann.[29]

The Discovery of Josephine Brunsvik (1957 to 1999)[edit]

Schmidt-Görg (1957) published 13 heretofore unknown love letters by Beethoven to Josephine Brunsvik (plus one draft letter by him that survived as a copy by Josephine), that could be dated to the time period from 1804 to 1809/10 when she was a widow (after the early death of her first husband Count Deym),[30] however, he dismissed Kaznelson’s discoveries as "sensational".[31] Goldschmidt (1980) explains why the German Beethoven scholarship was so reluctant to accept Kaznelson’s theory (already published before these "13 letters"): "The fact that, as a result of this meeting, they had ... to take a natural daughter into account, appeared so venturesome to the professional world that the resistance to the Josephine hypothesis stiffened noticeably."[32] Schmidt-Görg (1957, p. 31) believed that with the last letter (which he still thought to have been written in 1807 – not 1809) and with Josephine’s marriage to Baron Stackelberg (in 1810) the love relationship was terminated.

Ley (1957, p. 78) saw it differently: "Only on the negative side has one been able to arrive at certain conclusions: neither Giulietta Guicciardi, nor Amalie Sebald, nor Bettina Brentano can be considered any longer, and not even Therese Brunsvik, who for a long time was seriously regarded as the recipient of the famous love letter. But curiously enough, it is precisely the same documents which shed a definitive light, in the negative sense, on Therese which bear witness to Beethoven's passionate love for her sister Josephine."[33]

Riezler (1962, p. 46), still very much a "standard" German biography of Beethoven, followed Kaznelson regarding Josephine being his "only love", likewise Dahlhaus (1991, p. 247) who concluded that "internal evidence" points to Josephine.[34]

The French authors Jean & Brigitte Massin (1955) identified Josephine as the "Immortal Beloved", mainly based on comparisons of the "Letter to the Immortal Beloved" with the earlier 14 (15) love letters: "The letter to the ‘Immortal Beloved’ … not only uses similar wording, but also emphasizes his long-time faithfulness to his one and only Beloved."[35] In addition, with regard to traces in Beethoven’s compositions, the "Massins argue that ... the presence of Josephine in Beethoven's life left traces in his music. ... From the standpoint of music theory, the connections make eminent sense."[36]

After Massin & Massin (1955) and Goldschmidt (1980 [2014]), Tellenbach (1983 [2014], 1987, 1988, 1999) argued extensively the case for Josephine, based on many newly discovered documents, like Therese's later diary notes, e.g., on the discovery of the "Three letters by Beethoven … they must have been to Josephine whom he loved passionately.”[37]

"Beethoven! It is like a dream, that he was the friend, the confidant of our house – a beautiful mind! Why did not my sister Josephine, as widow Deym, take him as her husband? Josephine’s soul-mate! They were born for each other. She would have been happier with him than with Stackelberg. Maternal affection made her forgo her own happiness."[38]

Again Therese on Beethoven: "How unhappy, with such intellectual talent. At the same time Josephine was unhappy! Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien – both together they would have been happy (perhaps). What he needed was a wife, that’s for sure."[39]
"I was so lucky to have been acquainted with Beethoven, intimately and intellectually, for so many years! Josephine’s intimate friend, her soul mate! They were born for each other, and if both were still alive, they would be united."[40]
Goldschmidt's evaluation of the Josephine hypothesis: "Without conclusive proofs of the opposite one should no longer want to part prematurely with the increasingly justified assumption that the 'Immortal Beloved' could hardly be anyone else but the 'Only Beloved'."[41]

Josephine's candidacy as the "Immortal Beloved" was contested by Solomon (1988), mainly in response to Massin (1955, 1970), Goldschmidt (1980) and Tellenbach (1983).

Antonie Brentano and Other Alternatives (1955 to 2011)[edit]

In 1955 the French scholars Jean and Brigitte Massin noticed the fact that Antonie Brentano was present in Prague and Karlssbad at the time and discussed her as a possible candidate for the "Immortal Beloved":

"The assumption that it could have been Antonie Brentano, is both tantalizing and absurd."[42] They then argue:
Tantalizing is the assumption, because

  • Beethoven and Antonia since her return to Vienna were "on friendly terms",
  • In the summer of 1812 he lived in the same hotel in Franzensbad as the Brentanos, and
  • He had dedicated in the same year to her daughter Maxe a one-movement trio.

Absurd, they argue, is the assumption because of

  • Beethoven's lasting friendship with Antonie's husband, Franz,
  • He borrowed money from him, and
  • "The many letters he wrote Antonie prove that a true and deep but - due to mutual restraint - nevertheless only formal friendship existed between them and Beethoven always seems to perceive Franz, Antonia and their children as an inseparable unity."[43]

There was four years later also a claim by a Japanese author (Aoki 1959, 1968) who had "discovered" Antonie. However, this had not been noticed outside Japan. She also published her findings again in a recent book in German (Aoki 2008).

Once again and more detailed Solomon (1972, 1998) suggested Antonie Brentano to have been the "Immortal Beloved".[44] His hypothesis was founded on two major assumptions (or prerequisites):

  • 1. the woman must have been in Prague and Karlsbad around the time in question (like Beethoven);[45]
  • 2. she must have been closely acquainted (at least on very friendly terms) with Beethoven, at the time immediately before this event.[46]

ad 1: Antonie arrived in Prague on 3 July 1812 after an arduous journey with husband, child and servant (and was registered there); she left at dawn the following morning: "Where did she have time that night for a tryst with Beethoven?" (Steblin 2007, p. 148) Solomon (1972, p. 577) admits: "There is no proof that Beethoven and Antonie met in Prague." And regarding Karlsbad: "It is possible that the letter arose from a ... meeting with a woman who informed Beethoven that she was going to Karlsbad and then failed to carry out her declared intention." (Solomon 1998, p. 219 f.) Goldschmidt showed that "for short stays, residents [as opposed to foreigners] were exempt from reporting requirements".[47]

ad 2: There are no love letters from or to Antonie, and no other documents supporting the possibility of a love relationship with Beethoven, there is only a letter by Antonie to her brother-in-law Clemens, where she expressed her "admiration" of Beethoven:[48] "At what point this worship was transformed into love is not yet known. My estimate is ... in the fall of 1811. … The love affair was under way by late 1811."[49] Solomon (1998, p. 229) quotes as supporting his case the Song "An die Geliebte" [To the Beloved] WoO 140, an autograph of which contains in Antonie’s handwriting the remark: "Requested by me from the author on 2 March 1812."[50] The background to this: "In November 1811, we see Beethoven writing a newly composed song with the heading ‘An die Geliebte’ [To the Beloved] into the album of the Bavarian Court singer Regina Lang. … Dilettante verses … by a clumsy author, a real dilettante, a coffeehouse poet."[51] Solomon (1972, p. 572) declares that Beethoven’s separation from his “Only Beloved” Josephine two years before (due to her second marriage) does not rule out that she could have been the “Immortal Beloved”: “There is no certainty that the affair was not momentarily rekindled a half-decade later. ... There is still room for a reasonable doubt." (Solomon 1998, p. 461, n. 48.)

Solomon’s hypothesis was contested by Goldschmidt (1980 [2014]), Tellenbach (1983 [2014], 1987, 1988, 1993/1994, 1998), Beahrs (1972, 1986, 1988, 1993), Dahlhaus (1991), Pichler (1994), Altman (1996), Meredith (2000), Steblin (2007), Walden (2011), Klapproth (2011/2012), Caeyers (2012, and Swaffort (2014).[52]

Goldschmidt (1980) summarizes: "The Antonia hypothesis … is not so fully convincing that it excludes all others."[53] and: "In order to possibly verify the Antonia-Hypothesis with its inherent factual contradictions once and forever, it is necessary to falsify the other hypotheses that have been offered."[54]

Altman (1996) "demonstrates, as indeed Tellenbach has done, that much of the basis for the claims of Antonie's supporters consists of distortions, suppositions, opinions, and even plain inaccuracies." (Cooper 1996, p. 18)[55]

However, Altman's suggestion that the "Immortal Beloved" was Marie Erdödy was shown to be "impossible" by Cooper (1996).[56]

Lund (1988) made a claim that Antonie’s son Karl, born exactly eight months after the alleged encounter with Beethoven, should have been his son; even Solomon did not endorse this, as he thought "it was 'sensationalistic'." (Meredith 2011, p. x)

Beahrs (1993, p. 183 f.) supported Josephine: "Was there for him in fact … one deep and lasting passion for a certain dear one, marriage to whom was precluded, not by psychological inhibitions of the inner man, but by prohibitive heart-breaking externals? … Where is any evidence whatsoever of true romantic love for even such dear ones as Marie Erdödy or Dorothea von Ertmann, Therese Malfatti or Antonie Brentano? Although all have been advanced as Beethoven's unknown Immortal Beloved, the assessment is unsupported by the record or by any known correspondence. Intimate friends of Beethoven, true, one and all; but loves? There is one, however, and only one, to whom Beethoven did pour his heart out in impassioned declarations of undying love remarkably similar to the phraseology of the anguished letter to his Immortal Beloved… That one is his 'BELOVED AND ONLY J' – Josephine."

Pulkert’s (2000) claim about one Almerie Esterházy, whom Beethoven did not even know, was refuted by Steblin (2001). Meredith (2000, p. 47) summarily comments: "… we lack evidence of a connection between Almerie and Beethoven... I must reiterate that we have no such evidence of a passionate love relationship between Antonie and Beethoven either, just of a close friendship; for Josephine, … we know he was indeed passionately in love with her in 1805-1807 at least."

Finally, Kopitz’ (2001) "valiant effort … show[ed] that Antonie cannot have been the ‘Immortal Beloved’. She was a happily married wife and mother … her candidacy, which includes the improbable scenario of a ‘ménage à trois’ in Karlsbad, makes no psychological sense." (Steblin 2007, p. 148)
Walden (2011, p. 5)[57] suggests that Bettina Brentano was Beethoven’s "Immortal Beloved", based on the assumption that one of the two spurious letters by Beethoven to her is true: "If that letter to Bettina was genuine, it would prove conclusively that Bettina was the Immortal Beloved, but the original has not survived, and the authenticity is strongly doubted today. ... her reliability and truthfulness are today under a cloud."[58] Meredith (2011, p. xxii), in his Introduction, has reviewed the debate over the major candidates and he believes that "Walden’s proposal merits unbiased consideration".
Meredith (2011), reviewing the history of the debate so far, deplores the fact that French and German authors (like Massin & Massin and - until then - Goldschmidt) were never translated into English, thus depriving especially the US-based Beethoven scholarship of the most valuable resources in this field of study: "Unfortunately, several of the most important and controversial studies about the Immortal Beloved have never appeared in English translation, which has substantially restricted their impact." (p. xv) "Tellenbach ... too has unfortunately never appeared in English translation." (p. xvii) [until 2014]

Josephine re-discovered (2002 to date)[edit]

Significant new discoveries in European archives were made and published by Steblin (2002, 2007, 2009, 2009a) and Skwara/Steblin (2007). These can be summarized into two important items:

  1. Josephine’s estranged husband Baron Stackelberg was most likely away from home at the beginning of July 1812 (probably from the end of June for ca. two months), as noted in her diary: "Today has been a difficult day for me. – The hand of fate is resting ominously on me – I saw besides my own deep sorrows also the degeneration of my children, and – almost – all courage deserted me –!!! ... Stackelberg wants to leave me on my own. He is callous to supplicants in need."[59] Steblin (2007, p. 169) also discovered a document headed "Table of Rules" and dated 5–11 July with a list of ethical categories in the handwriting of Christoph von Stackelberg: "Thus this whole document, dated at the time when ... he ... was deliberating about his future, is surely further proof that Josephine was left alone ... in June and July 1812."
  2. Josephine expressed her clear intention to go to Prague (in June 1812): "I want to see Liebert in Prague. I will never let the children be taken from me. ... On account of Stackelberg I have ruined myself physically, in that I have incurred so much distress and illness through him."[60]

"A new way of looking at old evidence confirms that Josephine was Beethoven's one and only 'Immortal Beloved'. ... All of the puzzling aspects about Beethoven's affair with the 'Immortal Beloved,' including his various cryptic comments, can be explained in terms of his one known beloved – Josephine. Why do we doubt his word that there was only one woman who had captured his heart?" (Steblin 2007, p. 180).

However, it should be noted that this conclusion is still not known in recent publications - for example, the article on Beethoven in the most recent edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2001, supports the Antonie hypothesis,[61] an indication of the above-quoted observation by Meredith (2011, p. xvii) that much of the recent, document-based research by European scholars (published in German or in Germany) has been ignored in America.

Antonie: refuted by Beethoven himself[edit]

It was only recently [62] that Solomon's Antonie hypothesis was finally and thoroughly refuted. The answer to this perennial question can be found already in the second part of Beethoven's famous Letter:

(1) "Mondays – Thursdays – the only days when the mail coach goes from here to K."

(2) "... you will probably not before Saturday receive the first message from me."

Beethoven was in Teplitz when he wrote this on Tuesday the 7th (no doubt about that), and Antonie Brentano was (as Beethoven knew very well) at the same time (for several weeks) in "K" (Karlsbad). From Teplitz to Karlsbad (ca. 100 km), the post coach took just one day. Therefore, if it had been intended for Antonie, she would have received the Letter on Friday morning, the latest. If, however, Beethoven expected the addressee to receive the Letter not before Saturday (and "probably") then she must have been two days away from Teplitz, or one more day from Karlsbad - in a westerly direction: the next bigger township is Eger [Cheb], ca. 50 km from Karlsbad (and Franzensbad another 10 km away). Now it is established that Antonie is definitely ruled out, and only Josephine remains as a likely candidate, it helps to know that the Austrian Emperor was briefly in Franzensbad on 5 July 1812, and given the known fact that Josephine's first husband was a personal friend of the Emperor (to whom she went to ask for help, after becoming a widow), it makes sense to assume that she tried to meet him there (after her encounter with Beethoven on 3–4 July).

She must have missed him, and probably returned home immediately, deeply disappointed. Beethoven's Letter was most likely returned as undeliverable (that's why he kept it).

The movie Immortal Beloved: theory about Johanna Reiss[edit]

In the 1994 movie Immortal Beloved,[63] written and directed by Bernard Rose, it is suggested that the Immortal Beloved is Beethoven's sister-in-law Johanna Reiss, with whom he had a long and frustrating legal battle over the custody of his nephew Karl van Beethoven. In the movie, it is suggested that Karl is not the child of his brother Kaspar Anton Karl van Beethoven. The closing scenes of the movie are of Johanna meeting Ludwig on his death bed. He writes in the corner of a paper: "Muss das sein?" ("Must it be so?"), to which she answers in writing: "Es muss sein" ("It must be so"), signifying that everything is in the past, and nothing can be done about it anymore. Despite their hatred for each other, they have made their peace. Then, Johanna reads the letter after his death, and realises that fate kept them apart, and that he still loved her.[64] The theory of Johanne Reiss being the "Immortal Beloved" has been dismissed however (see Lockwood 1997).

The Immortal Beloved in Music[edit]

Recently, Canadian composer James K. Wright ([1]) composed a chamber art song cycle titled "Briefe an die unsterbliche Geliebte" (Letters to the Immortal Beloved), for mezzo-soprano (or baritone) and piano trio. The cycle sets excerpts from Beethoven’s letter of 6-7 July 1812, and is also available in mezzo/piano and baritone/piano arrangements. A recording of "Briefe an die unsterbliche Geliebte" is featured on a 2015 CD released on the Naxos label titled "Elements Eternal," by mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah and the Gryphon Trio([2]). Réa Beaumont, music critic for theWholeNote magazine, describes how "Wright’s deeply moving composition, exquisitely sung by mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah, seamlessly weaves Beethoven’s own Andante favori into the third movement in further tribute to the composer.” ([3] and [4]). Ettore Garzia of "Percorsi Musicale" commends the recording for "bravura performances by mezzo soprano Julie Nesrallah and a fascinating instrumental development that play between the function of remembrance and an unambiguous tenderness (“Letters to the Immortal Beloved è una triade di song cycle che trae ispirazione dalle famose lettere di Beethoven nel 1812 ritrovate dopo la morte del compositore senza una destinataria (la musicologia è quasi concorde nell’attribuirle a Josephine Von Brunswick); si distinguono nel pezzo la bravura del mezzo soprano Julie Nesrallah ed un fascinoso sviluppo strumentale giocato tra la funzione del ricordo e una dolcezza senza mezzi termini).” ([5])

English folk/punk musician Frank Turner's song "Josephine" references Beethoven, and in particular letters written to his "immortal beloved".


  1. ^ There was no address on the letter, and no envelope was found (thus suggesting it was probably never sent). The letter was addressed to "My Angel...", but as the term "Immortal Beloved" (appearing only once towards the end of the letter) was unique in Beethoven's vocabulary, it has been used ever since.
  2. ^ The letter's signature is "Mus. ep. autogr. Beethoven 127."
  3. ^ Solomon (1972, 1998), supported by Cooper (2000, 2008), Kopitz (2001) and Lockwood (2003), contested by Goldschmidt (1980), Tellenbach (1983, 1987, 1988, 1993/1994, 1998), Beahrs (1972, 1986, 1988, 1993), Dahlhaus (1991), Pichler (1994), Altman (1996), Meredith (2000), Steblin (2007), and Walden (2011); numerous refutations in The Beethoven Journal 16/1 (Summer 2001), pp. 42-50.
  4. ^ La Mara (1920); Kaznelson (1954); Riezler (1962); Massin (1955, 1970); Goldschmidt (1980); Tellenbach (1983, 1987, 1988, 1999); Beahrs (1986, 1988, 1993); Dahlhaus (1991); Pichler (1994); Noering (1995); Steblin (2002, 2007, 2009a).
  5. ^ Schindler (1840). Her first name was in fact "Julie", as she was always called (Steblin 2009); in Beethoven's dedication of his Piano Sonata #14 Op. 27#2, which was wtitten in Italian, he referred to her as "Giulietta". For some reason this name has stuck ever since (one of many myths about her, like her incorrect age and wedding date, see Steblin 2009, p. 145).
  6. ^ Tenger (1890); La Mara (1909).
  7. ^ Altman (1996).
  8. ^ Walden (2002, 2011). According to Varnhagen’s diary, 18 February 1856: "Bettina ... claims Beethoven had been in love with her and wanted to marry her! ... Nothing but bubbles and dreams!" (Tellenbach 1983, p. 101). Being happily married to Achim von Arnim since 1811, she is usually considered one of the less likely candidates for the title of "Immortal Beloved".
  9. ^ The 1994 film "Immortal Beloved", written by Bernard Rose, has a fictional plot centered on the mystery of who the letter was addressed to, ultimately declaring Beethoven's lover to be his sister-in-law Johanna van Beethoven. The story follows Beethoven's secretary and first biographer Anton Schindler (Jeroen Krabbé) as he attempts to ascertain the true identity of the Unsterbliche Geliebte (Immortal Beloved). Schindler journeys throughout the Austrian Empire interviewing women who might be potential candidates as well as examining Beethoven's own tumultuous life. In the final scenes of the film, after Schindler is unsuccessful at discovering the truth, it is revealed that Johanna van Beethoven, Beethoven's hated sister-in-law, was supposedly the Immortal Beloved, and that Karl was their love child. (This, of course, is pure speculation.) See also Lockwood (1997).
  10. ^ For a facsimile, see Brandenburg (2001).
  11. ^ For a transcription of the German original, an English translation and helpful historical context, see Brandenburg (2001). The Letter was also published by Brandenburg (1996), Letter #582, and Goldschmidt (1980), pp. 21-23 [2014, pp. 15-17]; facsimile p. 240 f. An early English translation, with several errors, was offered by Anderson (1961), Letter #373; a much better translation is in Beahrs (1990). See also Klapproth (2012, pp. 159-162), Tellenbach (2014, pp. 279-281).
  12. ^ Letters in the following quoted from Brandenburg (1996).
  13. ^ Beethoven was briefly infatuated with her in 1801-2 (when she was his piano pupil, and dedicated his renowned "Moonlight" Sonata [in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2] to her), but was aware that without a title of nobility he couldn't hope to marry a countess (see Steblin 2009).
  14. ^ "… da Giulietta ihre Affären nicht verheimlichte…" [… since Giulietta did not cover up her affairs…] (Tellenbach 1983, p. 17 92014, p. 14)
  15. ^ For examples, see Stadlen (1977), Beck & Herre (1979), Howell (1979), Newman (1984) and Albrecht (2009).
  16. ^ ”Drei Briefe von Beethoven, angeblich an Giulietta. Sollten es Machwerke sein?" (Therese’s Diary, 12 November 1840, in Tellenbach 1983, p. 15 [2014, p. 12].)
  17. ^ La Mara (1909) p. 17.
  18. ^ (rev. Forbes, 1967)
  19. ^ (the "Louis" mentioned by Therese in her diary was in fact Count Louis Migazzi)
  20. ^ "The tone of the notes to Amalie Sebald in September, 1812, is incompatible with that of the letter to the 'Immortal Beloved'." (Forbes 1967, p. 1090)
  21. ^ reprinted in Goldschmidt (2014), p. 356 f. This forgery fooled many scholars at the time: "The editors of 'Die Musik' submitted this Beethoven manuscript to many well-known experts, all of whom independently declared it to be genuine." [Die Redaktion der "Musik" legte dieses Beethoven-Manuskript vielen bekannten Fachleuten vor, welche alle unabhängig voneinander das Stück für echt erklärten.] (Goldschmidt 2014, p. 357). Not enough: "Bekker made it then public that his Beethoven letter was a forgery. [But] many Beethoven scholars did not want to believe this, and in many newspapers and journals ... expressed their conviction that this was undoubtedly a valuable genuine document." [... veröffentlichte Bekker, der von ihm publizierte Beethoven-Brief sei eine Fälschung. Viele Beethoven-Forscher wollten dies aber nicht glauben und gaben in Tages- und Fachzeitschriften ihrer Überzeugung Ausdruck, daß es sich zweifellos um ein wertvolles echtes Stück handelt.] (Goldschmidt 2014, p. 358)
  22. ^ (Beethoven’s mention in the letter of Prince Esterházy's presence at Teplitz confirms that the year must have been 1812) (Goldschmidt 2014, p. 48 f.).
  23. ^ "… es war mir leid, lieber V. den letzten Abend in Prag nicht mit ihnen zubringen zu können, und ich fand es selbst für unanständig, allein ein Umstand den ich nicht vorhersehen könnte, hielt mich davon ab." (Beethoven to Varnhagen, 14 July 1812, in Brandenburg 1996, #583.)
  24. ^ "… drängte sich mir die Überzeugung auf, daß ... Josephine verwitwete Gräfin Deym die 'unsterbliche Geliebte' Beethovens ... sei." (La Mara 1920, p. 1.)
  25. ^ Rolland was in contact with Marianne Czeke, who seemed to have known quite a lot more about the relationship between Beethoven and the Brunsviks
  26. ^ Goldschmidt (2014), p. 12, n. 19.
  27. ^ Refuted by Goldschmidt (1980), p. 325 f. Astonishingly, this book was published in 1964 in German translation even though the "13 Letters" (translated by Anderson, 1961) had meanwhile been published, clearly indicating a very heterosexual drive in the composer!
  28. ^ Refuted by Goldschmidt (2014), p. 124 f.
  29. ^ Refuted by Tellenbach (2014), pp. 30-33.
  30. ^ More love letters (also by Josephine to Beethoven) were published by Schmidt-Görg (1969)
  31. ^ Schmidt-Görg (1957, p. 35).
  32. ^ "Der Umstand, daß man … als Folge dieser Begegnung eine natürliche Tochter in Kauf zu nehmen hatte, erschien der professionellen Welt als so abenteuerlich, daß die Widerstände gegen die Josephinen-Hypothese sich merklich versteiften." Goldschmidt (1980, p. 15 [2014, p. 11])
  33. ^ "Nur im Negieren ist man in der Lage, zu eindeutigen Schlüssen zu gelangen: weder Giulietta Guicciardi noch Amalie Sebald oder Bettina Brentano können in Frage kommen, und nicht einmal Therese Brunsvik, die für eine lange Zeit ernsthaft als die Empfängerin des berühmten Liebesbriefess galt. Aber merkwürdigerweise sind es genau die gleichen Dokumente, die definitiv, im negativen Sinne, auf Therese hinweisen, Zeugnis von leidenschaftlicher Liebe Beethovens für ihre Schwester Josephine."
  34. ^ In a review of Tellenbach (1983) in the leading German newspaper F.A.Z. (on 24 February 1984), Dahlhaus stated: "Daß Beethovens berühmter 'Brief an die unsterbliche Geliebte' ... an Josephine von Brunswick gerichtet war, steht inzwischen fest." [That Beethoven's famous "Letter to the Immortal Beloved" ... was addressed to Josephine von Brunsvik, is now a well established fact.]
  35. ^ Steblin (2007), p. 149.
  36. ^ Meredith (2011), p. xv. Elaborated by Goldschmidt (2014), pp. 242 ff.
  37. ^ ”3 Briefe von Beethoven ... sie werden wohl an Josephine sein, die er leidenschaftlich geliebt hat." (Therese’s Diary, 15 January 1847, in Tellenbach 1983, p. 16 [2014, p. 13].) This was then also in response to the biography by Schindler (1840), refuting his hypothesis that Julie Guicciardi was the "immortal Beloved".
  38. ^ "Beethoven! ist es doch wie ein Traum, [daß] er der Freund, der Vertraute unseres Hauses war – ein herrlicher Geist – warum nahm ihn meine Schwester J. nicht zu ihrem Gemahl als Witwe Deym? Josephines Herzensfreund! Sie waren für einander geboren. Sie wäre glücklicher gewesen als mit St[ackelberg]. Mutterliebe bestimmte sie – – auf eigenes Glück zu verzichten." (Therese’s Diary, 4 February 1846, in Schmidt-Görg 1957, p. 23.)
  39. ^ "Wie unglüklich bei so grossen Geistesgaben. Zu gleicher Zeit war Josephine unglüklich! Le mieux est l'enemi du bien – sie beide zusammen wären glüklich gewesen (vielleicht). Ihm hat eine Frau gefehlt[,] das ist gewiß." (Therese's Diary, 22 December 1846, in Goldschmidt 1980, p. 296.)
  40. ^ "Ich Glückliche hatte Beethovens intimen, geistigen Umgang so viele Jahre! Josephinens Haus- und Herzensfreund! Sie waren für einander geboren[,] und lebten beide noch, hätten sie sich vereint." (Therese's Diary, March 1848, in Goldschmidt 1980, p. 296.)
  41. ^ "Ohne schlüssige Beweise des Gegenteils wird man sich nicht mehr voreilig von der zunehmend begründeten Annahme trennen wollen, daß die 'Unsterbliche Geliebte' schwerlich eine andere als die 'Einzig Geliebte' war." (Goldschmidt 1980, p. 296.)
  42. ^ "L’hypothèse d’Antonia Brentano est à la fois séduisante et absurde." (Jean and Brigitte Massin 1955, p. 240.)
  43. ^ "... les nombreuses lettres qu'il écrira à Antonina marquent une amitié profonde mais presque cérémonieuse à force d'être réservée, et Beethoven semble toujours considérer Franz, Antonia et leurs enfants comme un ensemble undivisible." (Jean and Brigitte Massin 1955, p. 240.)
  44. ^ He used documents about Beethoven's and the Brentanos' whereabouts discovered by Marek (1969); see Goldschmidt (2014), p. 77 f.
  45. ^ "The sine qua non for identification of the Immortal Beloved is that she must have been in Karlsbad during the week of July 6, 1812." (Solomon 1998, p. 219)
  46. ^ "… requirements …, that the Immortal Beloved be a woman closely acquainted with Beethoven during the period in question." (Solomon 1998, p. 218)
  47. ^ "Von der Meldepflicht bei Kurzaufenthalten waren ... Inländer befreit." Goldschmidt (1980), p. 235.
  48. ^ "Beethovens heilige Hände …[,] den ich tief verehre, er wandelt göttlich under den Sterblichen, sein höheren Standpunkt gegen die niedere Welt." [Beethoven’s sacred hands, whom I deeply admire, he is walking divinely among mortals, his elevated stature opposed to the world beneath.] (Antonie to Clemens, 26 January 1811, in Goldschmidt 1980, p. 524)
  49. ^ Solomon (1998), p. 238
  50. ^ "Den 2tn März, 1812 mir vom Author erbethen."
  51. ^ "November 1811 sehen wir Beethoven ein neuverfaßtes Lied mit der Überschrift ‘An die Geliebte’ der bayerischen Hofsängerin Regina Lang ins Stammbuch schreiben. … Die dilettantischen Verse haben ebenfalls Stammbuchcharakter. Als den linkischen Verfasser … von einem wirklichen Dilettanten, dem Kaffeehaus-Literaten Joseph Ludwig Stoll.” (Goldschmidt 1980, p. 138 f.) Goldschmidt's judgement about Stoll (1777-1815) is far too negative however. Stoll was a very successful playwright, who from 1809 on even received an honorary pension from Napoleon.
  52. ^ "The flaw in this [Solomon’s] methodology [in Support of Antonie] was that he established requirements that he knew only his candidate could meet. They were therefore not independent objective requirements at all." (Walden 2011, p. 104)
  53. ^ … die Antonia-Hypothese … nicht so restlos überzeugend ist, daß sie jede andere ausschließt. (Goldschmidt 1980, p. 165 f.)
  54. ^ "Um die Antonia–Hypothese möglicherweise mit den ihr sachlich innewaltenden Widersprüchen endgültig zu verifizieren, bedarf es der Falsifizierung anderer sich anbietender Hypothesen." (Goldschmidt 1980, p. 166.)
  55. ^ See also Meredith (2011, p. xxii).
  56. ^ It had already been refuted by Goldschmidt (1980 [2014]) with regard to Steichen (1959). Cooper's statement however that "To get to Jedlersee from Klosterneuburg, you have to cross the Kahlenberg." left a lot to be desired, as far as basic expertise in Viennese topography is concerned.
  57. ^ See also Walden (2002).
  58. ^ Two of three letters by Beethoven to Bettina (and published by her) are generally considered forgeries (like similar letters by Goethe she published), although Walden devotes an entire Chapter setting out evidence in support of the letter's authenticity. Walden's book is also summarized and reviewed by Patricia Stroh in the Beethoven Journal 26 (2011), p. 34.
  59. ^ "Ich habe heute einen schweren Tag. – Die Hand des Schicksals ruht düster auf mir – Ich sah nebst meinem tiefen Kummer auch noch die Entartung meiner Kinder und – fast – aller Muth wich von mir –!!! ... St. will daß ich mir selbst sitzen soll. er ist gefühllos für bittende in der Noth." (Josephine’s Diary, 8 June 1812, in Steblin 2007, p. 159.)
  60. ^ "Ich will Liebert in Prag prechen. ich will die Kinder nie von mir lassen. ... Ich habe Stackb zu liebe [mich] physisch zugrunde gerichtet indem ich ... noch so viele Kummer und Krankheit durch ihn zugezogen habe." (Josephine’s Diary, June 1812, in Steblin 2007, p. 162.)
  61. ^ Meredith (2011, p. xvi) provides some interesting revelations about the workings of what he calls the "Beethoven Mafia": "The endorsement of Solomon's solution in the Beethoven entry by Joseph Kerman and Alan Tyson in the 20th edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians in 1980 did much to solidify support: 'Of recent conjectures as to her identity the most plausible (by Maynard Solomon) is that she was Antonie Brentano ... Whether the psychological requirements are fulfilled depends on one's reading of her personality and of the letter's intended meaning'. ... Solomon's theory as the 'most plausible' became a point of fact [!] in the ... Grove Music Online ...: 'Solomon showed ... that she was Antonie Brentano... (As there are no explicit letters from Antonie Brentano to Beethoven, some do not accept that the case is closed; but no plausible alternative has been presented.)'"
  62. ^ Klapproth (2016, p. 40)
  63. ^ "Immortal Beloved" - the full movie can be watched here:
  64. ^ Final scene, in which Johanna discovers that Ludwig had indeed intended to meet her and marry her, but the coach broke down (as it states in the letter):


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