The search goes on for Beethoven's great love
BY BETSY STREISAND
To most Beethoven scholars, the
identity of the woman Beethoven
loved desperately but could not
possessthe woman he called "my angel,
my all, my very self" in letters found
after his death in 1827is no
mystery of history. She was
Antonie Brentano, graceful
Viennese wife of a Frankfurt
businessman and mother of
five. Beethoven met her in
Vienna around 1810 and
spent considerable time
That has been the consensus since the late 1970s when
music historian Maynard
Solomon handily eliminated all
other possible candidates, including frequently mentioned
Josephine of Brunsvick (seen at right), in his definitive biography, Beethoven. (Beethoven's sister-in
law, Johanna, put forth as "Immortal
Beloved" in the movie of the same name,
was never a serious candidate.) Solomon's
widely accepted argument makes it clear
that only Brentano could have been in the
right place at the right time in 1812.
No notes. Now comes word that the
woman who for more than a year derailed Beethoven's composing and sent
researchers in search of clues for nearly
150 more years may be a mystery after all.
Next month a group of Czech and American music scholars will publish an essay
claiming that a woman heretofore unmentioned is the true Beloved.
"This candidate has never before been
suggested and is the strongest to date,"
says William Meredith, head of the Ira F.
Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University in
California. Fearful of tipping off
other experts, he would say little else about Beethoven's
great love other than that
she had no children, which
is significant because of
theories that the composer fathered a son with
Brentano, who gave birth
less than nine months after
the Immortal Beloved letters
were written in July 1812.
Josephine of Brunsvick also had
a daughter several months after the
letters were written; Beethoven may have
tutored the child at the piano.
It is not clear whether the new revelations will lead to a better understanding of the relationship. There is no proof
Beethoven was sexually involved with his
Belovedor anyone else for that matter.
Yet she was the object of his deep desire
to be married. Without her, Beethoven
gave up hope for such a life. When he
died of liver failure in 1827, the only trace
of the Immortal Beloved was the three-part love letter he left behind, signed
"Ever thine, Ever mine, Ever ours."