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Miniature from Beethoven's belongings, possibly Julie Guicciardi
Julie ("Giulietta") Guicciardi (23 November 1782 – 22 March 1856) was an Austrian countess and briefly a piano student of Ludwig van Beethoven. He dedicated to her his Piano Sonata No. 14, now commonly known as the Moonlight Sonata.
Julie Guicciardi, as she was named by her family, was born in Przemy?l, Galicia. Her parents were Count Franz Joseph Guicciardi and Countess Susanna von Brunswik. She arrived in Vienna with her parents from Trieste in June 1800, and her beauty caused her to be noticed by high society. She was soon engaged to Count von Gallenberg (1780-1839), an amateur composer, whom she married on 14 November 1803. Subsequently, they moved to Naples, and she continued to live in Italy for some 20 years. In later years, Count Hermann von Pückler-Muskau was among her admirers.
She died in Vienna in 1856.
Connection with Beethoven
Beethoven became acquainted with Guicciardi through the Brunsvik family (often known in English as "Brunswick"). He was particularly intimate with her cousins, the sisters Therese and Josephine Brunsvik (whom he had taught the piano since 1799). In late 1801, he became Guicciardi's piano teacher, and apparently became infatuated with her. She is probably the "enchanting girl", about whom he wrote on 16 November 1801 to his friend Franz Gerhard Wegeler: "My life is once more a little more pleasant, I'm out and about again, among people - you can hardly believe how desolate, how sad my life has been since these last two years; this change was caused by a sweet, enchanting girl, who loves me and whom I love. After two years, I am again enjoying some moments of bliss, and it is the first time that - I feel that marriage could make me happy, but unfortunately she is not of my station - and now - I certainly could not marry now."
Title page for the first edition of the Piano Sonata No. 14 (1802)
In 1802, he dedicated to her (as "Giulietta Guicciardi") the Piano Sonata No. 14, which although originally titled Sonata quasi una Fantasia (like its companion piece) subsequently became known by the popular nickname Moonlight Sonata. This dedication was not Beethoven's original intention, and he did not have Guicciardi in mind when writing the Moonlight Sonata. Thayer, in his Life of Beethoven, states that the work Beethoven originally intended to dedicate to Guicciardi was the Rondo in G, Op. 51 No. 2, but this had to be dedicated to Countess Lichnowsky. So he cast around at the last moment for a piece to dedicate to Guicciardi.
In 1823, Beethoven confessed to his then-secretary and later biographer Anton Schindler, that he was indeed in love with her at the time. In his 1840 Beethoven biography, Schindler claimed that "Giulietta" was the addressee of the letter to the "Immortal Beloved". This notion was instantly questioned (though not in public) by her cousin Therese Brunsvik: "Three letters by Beethoven, allegedly to Giulietta. Could they be a hoax?" Therese's doubts were well-founded because, unlike Schindler and other contemporaries, she knew all about the intense and long-lasting romance between Beethoven and her sister Josephine: "Three letters by Beethoven ... they must be to Josephine whom he had loved passionately."
^Steblin (2009, p. 96) assumed that Guicciardi was not born in 1784, as often reported, but two years earlier. If this is the case, Guicciardi owned a fake baptismal certificate. Her tombstone also gives 1784 as her year of birth.
^"etwas angenehmer lebe ich jezt wieder, indem ich mich mehr unter Menschen gemacht, du kannst es kaum glauben, wie öde, wie traurig ich mein Leben seit 2 Jahren zugebracht ... diese Veränderung hat ein liebes zauberisches Mädchen hervorgebracht, die mich liebt, und die ich liebe, es sind seit 2 Jahren wieder einige seelige Augenblicke, und es ist das erstemal, daß ich fühle, daß - heirathen glücklich machen könnte, leider ist sie nicht von meinem stande." (Brandenburg 1996, #70.)
^According to recent scholarship, Beethoven may have dedicated the sonata to Julie as "payback" for an unwanted gift he had received from her mother. See: Steblin (2009, pp. 90, 131).
^Ludwig van Beethovens Konversationshefte, ed. Karl-Heinz Köhler and Dagmar Beck, vol. 2, Leipzig 1976, p. 366 f.
^"Drei Briefe von Beethoven, angeblich an Giulietta. Sollten es Machwerke sein?" (Therese's Diary, 12 November 1840, in Tellenbach 1983, p. 15). The letter to the "Immortal Beloved" consists of three parts.
^"3 Briefe von Beethoven ... sie werden wohl an Josephine sein, die er leidenschaftlich geliebt hat." (Therese's Diary, 15 February 1847, in Goldschmidt 1977a, p. 295). The claim that "Giulietta" was the "Immortal Beloved" has been thoroughly discredited.
Brandenburg, Sieghard, ed. (1996). Ludwig van Beethoven: Briefwechsel. Gesamtausgabe (8 volumes). Munich: Henle.
Goldschmidt, Harry (1977a). Um die Unsterbliche Geliebte. Ein Beethoven-Buch. Leipzig: Deutscher Verlag für Musik.
Goldschmidt, Harry (1977b). "Beethoven in neuen Brunsvik-Briefen". Beethoven-Jahrbuch 1973/77. pp. 97-146.