“Für Elise” is not only one of Beethoven’s most famous pieces. It is also one of the most well-known piano pieces ever written. However, much mystery surrounds the piece.
Fur Elise: A Mystery
Beethoven most likely composed Fur Elise at the beginning of the nineteenth century (somewhere between 1808 and 1810). But he did not publish it at that time. In fact, it appears he heavily revised the piece for an expected collection of Bagatelles around 1822. This also was never realized, however. In fact, the original autograph was only first discovered 40 years after the composer’s death. Only more recently have scholars attempted to reconstruct the piece based on Beethoven’s 1822 revision. (For those who may be interested in seeing both versions, the Barenreiter piano edition has both in very clear, easy-to-read formats.)
The genesis of the piece is not the only mystery about this piece, though. The name “Für Elise” comes from the dedication—but the identify of the “Elise” is unknown. Perhaps a more suitable, although less personal, title would be “Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor.” Historians and scholars continue to offer several different suggestions as to who this figure may have been, but the definitive Elise is still a mystery.
What we do know about the piece is that Beethoven wrote it shortly after he was going through one of his darkest periods during his growing battle with deafness. Already nearly completely deaf in 1802, Beethoven contemplated suicide but fought against that possibility to fulfill his destiny creating art. Around that time he created some of his most serious works.
Fur Elise on Fingerstyle Ukulele
While many people know this piece in its piano version of course, there are many arrangements for other instruments as well. However, this classic takes on new life on ukulele. There is a softness and intimacy to the sound that only the ukulele can achieve. The performance above is a new arrangement for fingerstyle ukulele of this famous piano piece and comes from the book Graded Repertoire for Classical Ukulele. Below you can watch a full lesson on this beautiful arrangement in D minor.
If you play baritone ukulele, then check out Jeff’s arrangement of Fur Elise for baritone ukulele here!