Therese is said to be Therese Malfatti, a woman Beethoven was in love in but rejected him (2007). Another theory suggests that Elise was a common term of endearment at that time and the piece was a song for lovers (2007). However), the explanation does not suit the composers nature (2007). He was often described as having a tortured personality (Kamien, 1998). Before one can analyze Fur Elise, it is important to study the musical force that was Beethoven. Beethoven was a perfectionist (Kamien, 1998). For him, music was a moral force (1998). He was even said to have worked on a single symphony for years (1998).
That was how dedicated he was to his music, which served as a reflection of himself (1998). Under the influence of Haydn and Mozart, Beethoven combined the classical and romantic eras with more intensity (1998). His works are classified under three periods- early (up to 1802), middle (1803-1814), and late (1815-1827). His early works evoked Haydn and Mozart, those of the middle period were said to be longer, while his late works had fugues (1998). This makes Fur Elise a product from the middle period. There are four elements of music- rhythm, melody, harmony and texture.
In the succeeding pages, these elements will be the basis for analyzing Fur Elise. Fur Elise is divided into three sections- A, B and C. However, A is repeated so it becomes A-B-A-C-A. Section A, and throughout the piece, has a rhythmic fluency of 3/8. The tempo is poco moto, which means little motion. It also has a pp or Pianissimo which means soft. Thus, the first section is played rather softly and slow yet fluid motion. Fur Elise has a right hand theme with arpeggios in the left hand. Arpeggio is playing of a chord with notes sounding in succession. See illustration below.
Fur Elise (Beethoven, 1967). Regarding its melody, section A is built on a short motive. This means that section A is used as a foundation for greater melody which comes in Section B. Since Section A is repeated, the structure of melody is repetition, where melody is repeated exactly. This is evinced by the repetition of first 4 bars. The bars are essentially repeated 15 times so if one learns just 4 bars, one will be able to play at least 50% of the piece. Fur Elise has a total of 124 full bars. See illustration below to see sample of this repetition. Fur Elise (Beethoven, 1967).
The first part is in the key of A minor. Minor scales are often used to denote a sad quality. Notice that the first part is like that. It is played softly and slowly, as if to introduce a poignant mood. Section As harmony is in A minor. It has a single pitch. Its texture or how the melody is presented is monophonic. This means that Section A has a single melody line. Section B starts on an upbeat rhythm. It has a stark difference from Section A. Its beat is dolce, meaning sweet. Its tempo is faster than Section A while still maintaining the same meter.
Moreover, Section Bs melody is built on a longer phrase. It is very ornamented, meaning in this section, the melody is enhanced. Section B also includes 32nd notes. Because of this, Section B is rather more difficult to play than the first section. Additionally, Section B has the same texture but starts in F major, then proceeds to C major, and ends on E major before going back to Section A. There is a diminishing interval before Section A is repeated. It seems that this is done to anticipate the start of another section, albeit a repeated section. This is illustrated below.
Fur Elise (Beethoven, 1967). Section C has a heavy beat. It is an A minor. This section is an interesting one since the rhythm is on the A though the right hand is playing chords not fitting with the A. This is called a pedal point, where a note, usually in the bass, is sounding against a changing harmony, etc. This is evinced is Section C. A series of arpeggios proceeds before going back to section A. This is where the piece ends, with an authentic cadence. It goes through a phase where there is a feeling of permanent repose. This authors favorite section is the second part, Section B.
From a soft opening, it suddenly moves to an upbeat tempo. There is sheer distinction between the two sections. Also, one can see the transition of emotions from section A to B. Section A is like a subdued emotion. It is soft, almost emotional. Then Section B harps on sweetly and a bit louder. From a passive stance, it moves to an active one. It may be compared to a coming of a storm. Section A is like contemplating on an incoming storm. Section B ups the ante even more, like drizzle is starting to fall. Section C is where the storm truly arrives, destroying everything.
Then, when the storm is done, everything becomes silent again- back to Section A. Section B, for the author, is a step ahead of the preparation, of the big event but is not nearly there. That is why it is the authors favorite section in the piece Fur Elise.
References: Beethoven, L. (1967). The International Library of Piano Music (Vol. 2). USA: The International Society, Inc. Forelise. com (2007). About Fur Elise. Retrieved March 22, 2008, from http://www. forelise. com/ Kamien, R. (1998). Music An Appreciation (3rd ed. ). New York: McGraw Hill.