A Bagatelle with a Lilting Free Flowing Melody

“Für Elise” is a piece for solo piano written by Beethoven. The original manuscript was confirmed to have been written on April 27, 1810. However, the piece was not officially published until 1840. The title translates literally “For Elise” however, it is uncertain if that title has any significant meaning. Scholars have debated who Elise is and whether the title was incorrectly copied from the original 1810 manuscript which is now lost.

The piece has gone through several changes over the years and many scholars believe that the original form of the piece was significantly different than the modern version. Most pianists and theorists classify the piece as a bagatelle, for the lilting free flowing melody. When performed, pianists often play the piece with a great amount of rubato which means they take liberties with the tempo. This piece is one of Beethoven’s more popular works.

Für Elise – piano sheet music

Sheet music and more information about the piece can be found here: http://www.pianostreet.com/beethoven-sheet-music/fur-elise-a-minor.htm

The piece begins in A minor. This key requires the use of very few black keys. However, there is a D-sharp which is not typically found in the key of A minor. This D-sharp creates a tritone between the E and the A in the opening motive of the pieve. However, because the D-sharp moves to a C before falling on A the piece doesn’t sound overly dissonant.

Since the piece opens with a simple alteration between E and D-sharp, the initial key is obscured to make the listener think the piece is in E minor or possibly even E Major. The actual key isn’t revealed until the second full measure when the melody and bass line come in on an A. Having the bass line come in on A instead of a stronger chord tone such as E or C gives the pianist the ability to come in subtly since they are an octave apart. For those that don’t follow music, an octave can reinforce a tone, but it is not as strong as some of the other intervals.

The opening of the piece is pretty simple and easy enough for a beginner. However, as the piece progresses, the music becomes more difficult and requires a greater degree of control and ability. Pianists that choose to play this piece must carefully control their pedaling to control the blurring between the notes. However, some pianists believe that the piece was meant to be played with a lot of pedal. Hearing a performance of this piece with heavy pedaling is a unique experience that creates a tapestry of sound that is truly inspiring. While the authenticity of such a performance is debated, the sound of such a performance is marvelous and truly unique.