|The Immortal Unknown: Some Personal Reflections|
Who is this Immortal Beloved? Whom did Beethoven love so passionately? Here is a question that has used up a lot of ink. And which continues to do so today: articles and books are still published on the subject...
It is certain that nothing will stop the researchers and scholars of this question.
It is quite astonishing to see how much thought and speculation the Immortal Beloved letter has provoked. The proposed possibilities as to the identity of this mystery woman are numerous, indeed too numerous for one man!
It is equally curious to see how the theorists are split into two clearly visible groups in their proposition of my Immortal Beloved: the English and the Americans, more in favor of Antonie Brentano, and the Germans, French and other Europeans, more in favor of Joséphine von Brunsvik.
In any case, if one day this great mystery were to be solved by an indisputable proof, would we find our appreciation of the works of Beethoven and of the man, himself changed?
With this in mind, the questions of certain researchers leave me wondering:
- Did he know one or many women, or did he not know any?
- Would he have seen a married woman, the wife of a good friend, or was he the virtuous type that some believe in?
- Could a child have been born from this union - could there not be, somewhere, the descendants of the great Beethoven who are ignorant of their origins?
Also, I am intrigued by the fact that this letter was found in Beethoven's possession. Was it never sent? But, in this case, why not? Was it returned? And why did he keep it?
This question is taken further by Heiligenstadt's theory: we are in the presence of a desperate man, who is writing his final testament, he thinks, to put an end to his days. In the end, he does not commit suicide (just as well for the sake of music), but he keeps this call of distress for 25 years, until his death, with the letter for his Immortal Beloved…
Beethoven has not finished astounding us, surprising us and enchanting us!
Ludwig van Beethoven remained celibate for all of his life.
The Immortal Beloved can be at ease, her secret is well kept...
|Cristina Barbieri's personal opinion|
Generally speaking, I widely agree with Dom’s opinions on the my Immortal Beloved matter. His ideas and hypothesis are most perceptive and sensitive.
Anyway, I believe that the question about WHY so much ink has been used in writing about the identity of the woman Beethoven loved can have an answer. I think that it is all intimately related with the cultural obsession, about discovering the secret of his genius. It is an old obsession, and it dates from his times already. This obsession was evident in the way –after his death-- his body was studied, in a most meticulous autopsy. The descriptions of the appearance of his internal organs were carefully made and recorded. For example, his brain was obsessively measured, weighed and described (with most interesting results we might add).
Long after his death he was exhumed twice, his bones and skull were measured and weighed again, and then photographed when it was finally possible… It is as if those men cherished the hope to find some kind of clue. A clue that would allow them to finally grasp the magnitude of the greatness of the man that had created such music and that had lived so intensely.
It is evident that they were looking for clues in the wrong places to find the identity of his Immortal Beloved. Beethoven proves that art offers something beyond the physical or the material world. Art is something related to the soul, to the Sacred, to the Divine. By the way, the relationship of our composer with God was always very close, as we can read and listen in so many places…
I think that the riddle of the Immortal Beloved letter is something of this kind of issue. It is like looking once again in the wrong place. It is as if by knowing what kind of woman loved him and was loved by him, some part of the mystery of his enormous spirit would be finally revealed to us.
If I had to give my own opinion regarding the identity of the woman, I would then say that I think that Josephine is the most likely candidate especially because the relation between the two of them had the required tone. Their love letters have a lot in common with the famous letter, and she was a very beautiful, cultured, musical young woman. These were requirements that Beethoven himself “joked” about on some occasion. He HAD loved her before, so he might have loved her still in 1812.
It is possible that the relation between them was ultimately impossible for the restrictions that the time put on such situations, and then the relation had receded to a spiritual level. This kind of spiritual link was mentioned in a mysterious letter written by Josephine in 1818 to equally mysterious recipient.
To even consider that a man as open and frank as Beethoven evidently was, could maintain an affair with a friend’s wife, and then share their roof with her and her husband (and child and maid) only a few days after such a passionate interlude….. Well, ---- it is a scenario simply unthinkable. If someone has only read his diaries, his letters, his moral writings… He would consider such an act, a terrible dishonorable behavior. He would loathe such a treasonous act. That is why the American hypothesis about the Immortal Beloved letter is completely unacceptable, absolutely psychologically unlikely. Which is to say, that our personage does not us allow to imagine THAT role for him.
Anyway, what is real beyond any doubt is that the composer really loved a particular woman very much, and that he loved her for a long time. The echoes of this love are listened along the years, in so much of his musical works. We can listen to this love in the vibrant bliss, of so many passionate adagios, in the sorrow present in those painful tones, in so many melodies loaded with sadness and memories.
In this, I am again in agreement with my French friend: in a way, I am extremely glad that with all the research invested in the Immortal Beloved riddle, our culture academia failed miserably in revealing this particular mystery. There is more than a hint of voyeurism in the acute desire to “know”. And our culture would only make some sordid media soap opera out of a most sad and beautiful love story.
And as we all know…, we that admire and love Beethoven and his music so much, he does not deserve this to be done with his most intimate feelings. Nothing of this would be worth of him, nor of the marvelous treasure he has left behind for us all.
So then, and once again, let us –this time-- admire in turn his keen intellect, and watch how this smart man, has left several generations past, and to come, ----- still looking for an answer to the Immortal Beloved. Beethoven still has them waiting and hoping in vain to be able to open his secrets. And remaining frustrated.
Many thanks to Hannah SALTER for her translation of this page from French into English
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