2018 November 11: Beethoven in Love
Sonata in E-flat, Op. 7 1st mvmt. L. Beethoven (1770-1827) [PIANO]
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
While a young man living in Vienna, Beethoven had given piano lessons to a young woman, Countess Anna Louise Barbara Keglevich. The Keglevich’s had been members of the nobility for two centuries, first in Dalmatia, then in Slovakia. Beethoven was invited to the Keglevich Palace in Bratislava in 1796, when the countess, who was also called Babette, was just 17 (Beethoven 26). It seems likely that Beethoven was in love with Anna. While there, he composed several works for her, which include the Sonata in E-flat major and the Piano Concerto (#1) in C Major.
Beethoven, who had an apartment directly across the street from the Keglevichs, would sometimes appear on their doorstep “in morning gown, slippers, and tasseled cap to give her lessons,” according to a letter later written by Babette’s nephew. It was to Babette that Beethoven dedicated the E-flat sonata, op. 7, which he composed that year. His student Carl Czerny recorded that the piece was written in an “impassioned” state of mind and may well reflect some feelings for his teenage student, though a young composer without rank or position would have had little hope of any deeper relationship with a woman of noble birth. (And undoubtedly Count Dad and Countess Mom kept daughter on a short leash!)
It seems likely that this young lady, whose life was later tragically cut short at the age of 33, must have been a formidable player: Beethoven was never one to suffer musical incompetence, even when in need of financial patronage – and even if in love.
We may speculate about this piece's inspiration, but I still find it full of that grand generosity of spirit which characterizes the bloom of youthful love.