Immortal Beloved (1994)



Director:    Bernard Rose.

Starring:     Gary Oldman (Beethoven), Jeroen Krabbe (Anton Felix Schindler), Valeria Golino (Countess Giulietta Guicciardi), Isabella Rosellini (Countess Anna Maria Erdody), Johanna ter Steege (Johanna Reiss ), Marco Hofschneider (Beethoven's son Karl).

life, love-life and death of the legendary composer Ludwig van Beethoven



Beethoven never married. After his death, friends found letters to a lover he called "Immortal Beloved," whose identity no one knew. 

This entertaining film is a "detective" movie trying to find who is the "immortal beloved" in Beethoven's last letter. There are quite a few candidates: Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, his piano student to whom the "Moonlight Sonata" was dedicated; Countess Anna Maria Erdody, who lost her children during the Napoleonic siege and is abandoned by Beethoven; and Johanna Reiss, Beethoven's hated sister-in-law.

The film is a clever one.  No one knows for sure who Beethoven's "Immortal Beloved" was, but the film gives one possible person as the beloved one.  The search for this immortal beloved makes for a good detective story.  And along the way, we learn a good deal about Beethoven himself. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:

1770 – Beethoven born at 515 Bongasse, Bonn, Germany.

His father was an alcoholic. He wanted his son to be a child prodigy, like Mozart, and beat him to achieve that goal.

He was taught and employed by Christian Gottlob Neefe. In addition, the Prince-Elector gave him financial sponsorship.

1787 – at age 17 Beethoven's mother died. He was responsible for raising his two younger brothers.

1787 – Beethoven visited Vienna and performed for Mozart, who was greatly impressed.

1792 – he moved to Vienna to study with Joseph Haydn. Beethoven stayed in Vienna permanently.

Because of Beethoven’s unorthodox style, the elderly Hayden passed Beethoven onto Johann Albrechtsberger. For awhile he even studied under Antonio Salieri.

Beethoven decided to make a living by public performances, sales of his works and stipends from members of the aristocracy.


Early Beethoven

He primarily emulated Haydn and Mozart. Among his famous pieces during this time were the first and second symphonies, the first six string quartets, the first two piano concertos, and the first twenty piano sonatas, including the famous Pathétique and Moonlight.

1795 – around age 25, he began to have serious stomach pains.

end of the 1790s – from this time, Beethoven was not dependent on patronage for his income.

1798 – around 28 years of age, Beethoven began to become deaf. He contemplated suicide.

1800 – First Symphony.

1801 – Moonlight Sonata.

1802 – Second Symphony.

c. 1803 – Beethoven was inspired by Napoleon, thinking that the General would carry forth the ideals of the French Revolution. He even dedicated his third symphony (1803-1804) to Napoleon.

1804 – now realizing that Napoleon would be no reformer, he tore out the title page on which he had dedicated his work to Napoleon.


Middle Beethoven

In this period, his works dealt with heroism and struggle. Among the famous works were: six symphonies (Nos. 3–8), the last three piano concertos and his only violin concerto, five string quartets (Nos. 7–11), the next seven piano sonatas including the Waldstein, and Appassionata, and Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio.

Beethoven had a hard time forming stable relationships with women. This in part was due to his being attracted to unattainable women (that is, married or aristocratic). He idealized these women, women who he could never marry. His habit of wearing filthy clothing, even though he washed compulsively, certainly did not help. Another thing that did not help was that he was often in financial trouble.

Still another reason for his not marrying was the he had been made the guardian of his nephew Karl. Karl was a handful, a youth that caused much anxiety and grief. Nevertheless, Beethoven remained devoted to the youngster.

1805 – Beethoven’s sole opera, Fidelio, was produced in its first version.

1806 – Piano Concerto No. 4 and his Violin Concerto.

1806-1809 – Beethoven had a close friendship with Therese Brunswick, who was devoted to the composer for her entire life.

1809 – Piano Concerto No. 5.

1809 (spring) – Beethoven fell in love with student Therese Malfatti. He considered marrying the girl.

1810 (spring) – at a party given by the Malfattis, Beethoven was going to propose marriage to Therese, but got drunk and could not pop the question.

1810 – Beethoven met Bettina Brentano-Arnim, the sister-in-law of the daughter of Birckenstock, one of Austria’s important Enlightenment representatives. Bettina and he began a close friendship.

1812 – facilitated by Bettina, Beethoven met the famous German writer Goethe at the Czech resort, Teplitz. Here Beethoven wrote the letter known as the "Letter to the Immortal Beloved." Two weeks after their meeting, the relationship between the two giants deteriorated.

c. 1812-1816 – this was a low period of music productivity and some have theorized that it was due to depression caused by his realization that he would never marry.

1815 – his brother Karl-Kaspar died. Beethoven’s last 12 years of life were marked by his struggle with his sister-in-law for the custody of their son Karl.


Late Beethoven (1816-1827)

Beethoven’s works in this period were concerned with highly personal emotions and experimentation with forms. Some of the famous works were: the Quartet in C Sharp Minor; the Ninth Symphony; the Missa Solemnis, the last five string quartets and the last five piano sonatas.

1817-1823 – the Ninth Symphony.

1819 – he was completely deaf.

1826 – despondent over large gambling debts, Karl tried to commit suicide.

1826 – his health became considerably worse. (It is believed that he may have suffered from lead poisoning.)

1827 – Beethoven dies.


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