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The Bagatelle in A minor (WoO 59), one of the most well-known works in all of classical music, is a piece shrouded in mystery. As many scholars have pondered since the work's publication in 1865, you, too, may be wondering, "who was Elise?"
Given that this famous composition was not published within Beethoven's lifetime (1770-1827), he left us few traces of his intentions for the piece or of Elise's identity. Some scholars believe that the piece was originally intended for Therese Malfatti, a woman to whom Beethoven unsuccessfully proposed marriage in 1810. Ludwig Nohl, who discovered the manuscript in the 1860s, is thought to have misread the dedication written in Beethoven's own hand, and mistook "Therese" to read "Elise." Still, other scholars speculate that Elise was actually Elisabeth Röckele, a well-known soprano with whom Beethoven held a close friendship, and who eventually married Beethoven's contemporary, Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837). Yet others suspect that Elise was no specific woman at all, but rather a term of endearment used during Beethoven's time, much as we might use the term "sweetheart" today.
Usually lasting less than 5 minutes, the composition is in rondo form that follows an A-B-A-C-A pattern; the highly-recognizable A section often being taught alone as a pedaling exercise to beginning piano students. While technical mastery of the piece can be achieved by many, it is in the hands of the true artist that the expressiveness of the work, with its many crescendos and decrescendos, ritardandos and accelerandos, shines through. With the work's intimate, legato, and dance-like qualities, coupled with its simple, elegant melody, perhaps there is no better piece than this one to invite even the most casual listener into the world of classical music.
Whoever Elise may have been, there is no doubt that Beethoven penned this work with deep sentiments in his heart, and with a love tempered by darkness and unanswered longing. Perhaps Beethoven never even intended for his creation to make its way into his published repertoire; and we will never know how Beethoven would truly feel about having his music played in fast-food restaurant commercials or in dance clubs with strobe lights and techno-beat accompaniment. Regardless of his intentions, Beethoven, through this enduring, mysterious work, once again weaves his way into the depths of our hearts, souls, and collective being.
With the inclusion of suggested fingerings, this digital edition is perfect for beginner-to-intermediate pianists. Besides the ability to print the sheet music from the pdf file, this edition also includes Scorch files (for transposition to another instrument), helpful videos, MIDI, and MP3 audio files.