"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Music Tuesday: Für Elise by Ludwig van Beethoven

Now that I’ve decided to expand beyond blues, let’s play a wonderful little piano piece by Beethoven.  I’m sure a lot of you will recognize it.  What’s amazing is that this piece was discovered after Beethoven’s death.  Who is “Elise” is a bit of a mystery, and you can read about it here. 

 The composition is considered to be a bagatelle, a piece that is “usually short and somewhat whimsical in nature.”  You can read about the composition at another tab on that link.  It may be whimsical and short, but there is a profundity to it.  The key of A minor certainly helps, but I think the recurring moments where a single note is repeated suggests a moment of soul searching.  As the site says the piece is in the form of a rondo, a recurring melody.  Here the form is ABACA, “A” being the recurring home theme.  The “B” and “C” contrasting themes suggest an attempt to break out of this melancholy mood.  “B” theme I think starts at 1:06 in this video and “C” about a minute later.  I can’t quite reach a conclusion to how the piece ends.  Does the mood shift in the last play of the home theme, and therefore come to some sort of resolution, or does the piece end on the same dispirited mood?  I can almost hear both.  What do people think?




No one creates tension like Beethoven!  I don’t know Tzvi Erez, but he plays this beautifully.  I sampled a few videos and I really think his was the best.  You can read about him here. 



  1. I listen to a LOT of piano, my husband being a pianist and he is practicing for competitions in Utah and Texas. That said though, I am no expert, I just have my own way of thinking about music. I lean towards a general feeling that a piece evokes, sometimes with differing snapshots within.
    Fur Elise is forever stuck in my head as the piece the beginning player must learn. But to play these simpler pieces well and pull out some depth can take knowledge and finesse. Bob is learning something similar, called Traumerei. from Schumann's Scenes from Childhood.Some famous pianists play it as an encore: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKZJWePidEo
    Lang Lang can be a serious ham. and takes a lot of criticism for it, but if watching him bothers you, then just listen. He can really blow you away with the simplest of things. This piece really does evoke childhood.

    I said all that and now I am finally getting to Fur Elise, haha, sorry.

    I think that it evokes a couple emotions; sweetness, tenderness, beauty, and in the more intense parts, passion, stateliness. Knowing that it is written "for Elise," we can glean some of the ways he felt about her. That's usually as far as I go with it. My feeling is that most music doesn't tell a story, as much as paint a picture. There certainly are exceptions. One I know is the Revolutionary Etude: (by my favorite pianist, btw--http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6iXQ5_MCA.
    It really tells a story about Poland's failed revolution against Russia. It ends with dead bodies on a battlefield and you can really tell that.

    Ah well, you hit upon something I can go on and on about, and did. :)

    1. Interesting. Here's why I think more melancholy and introspective. (1) It's in A minor key, which along with C minor is known for being "sad." (2) The home theme has a downward movement. (3) The rondo form keeps bringing back that sad, introspective theme. If it does break out at the end, it's only by a shade of movement. (4) Repeated playing of a single note is not usually thought of as a positive feeling in music, and that frequent playing of that one note (I think it's an "A" eighth note, maybe 1/16th) creates such negative tension. It makes it so inward looking. Anyway, that's how I see it.

      What does your husband think?

    2. Manny, he will stop by. He works his night job all week, but I did have a conversation with him about it.

      Also--off topic, but I have tried three times to leave a comment on Jeanette's latest post at J's and my comments aren't showing up. Don't know if there's a problem or they are moderating, but usually I see my comments there right away.

    3. I was able to comment Kelly but when I tried to edit after I saw a spelling mistake, it hung up and wouldn't let me. I don't know why that site is so tempermental.

  2. ps. sorry about all the wonky spacing. In adding the links I must have done that and didn't see it till after I posted.

  3. When I was a little girl my mother made me take piano lessons. I was able to play the entire Per Elisa and the entire Moonlight Sonata, but as a teen-ager I stopped playing
    and now I don't even remember how to read music. I truly regret it.

    1. I regret never learning to play an instrument too. I have a funny story about that. I'll try to tell it on my next Music Tuesday.