This week, let’s focus on ‘Bagatelle in A minor WoO 59’. If that sounds strange, how about ‘Für Elise’, or simply ‘For Elise’? It is one of Beethoven’s most famous piano pieces and is a basic learning material in piano classes.
It is believed that ‘Für Elise’ was composed in the year 1810 as the main draft and Beethoven decided to have a relook and edited it with an intention to include in his publication of bagatelles (Bagatelles are short pieces of music, usually played in the piano) later. But he died on 26 March 1827, at the age of 56, during a thunderstorm.
In 1867, Ludwig Nohl, a German music scholar and writer, published Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’ for the first time.
There is a separate thread on the question about who is Elise. It is believed that Nohl might have transcribed the title wrongly from ‘Für Therese’ to ‘Für Elise’. Beethoven was known to have proposed to one Ms. Therese Malfatti, but she had turned him down and married an Austrian nobleman instead!
‘Für Elise’ has spawned a lot of versions in pop culture and across world music. Some of the early and impressively interesting variants include Ennio Morricone’s Western-style version in the soundtrack of the 1966 spaghetti western film, The Big Gundown (La Resa Dei Conti), for the piece titled, ‘La Condanna’. The original soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds had featured the same song more recently, though it had mislabeled the song as ‘Copa La Condanna’ which was a different piece of music from the 1966 film.
Italian musician Giorgio Moroder produced one of the earlier lyrical versions of ‘Für Elise’ in his 1973 single, ‘Lonely Lovers’ Symphony’.
McDonald’s used the tune in a popular American TV advertisement in 1986, again, with lyrics, that are quite funny!
One of the most bizarre uses of the tune happened in Taiwan, where the tune was the default music for garbage trucks in Taipei, reminding people to bring their trash!
American rapper Nas offered a mighty interesting rap version of ‘Für Elise’ in his 2002 song, ‘I Can’.
Closer home, one of the earliest appropriations of ‘Für Elise’ is perhaps by composer M.S. Viswanathan for the song, ‘En Manadhu Ondrudhaan’ from the 1977 Tamil film Avan Oru Sarithiram.
In 1988, Anu Malik used ‘Für Elise’ for the song, ‘Pehla Pehla Pyar Layi Hoon’ in the film Maalamaal, where Aditya Pancholi and Mandakini dance in a corny studio setting depicting Egyptian paraphernalia!
But Anu Malik seems besotted with the tune, so much that he doesn’t stop with just one recreation. In 1995, for the Aamir Khan starrer Baazi, he used it again, for the song ‘Jaane Mujhe Kya Hua’!
The most interesting and inventive recreation of ‘Für Elise’ in Indian films was in 2013, by composer Rajesh Murugesan. The Malayalam-Tamil bilingual film Neram had an instrumental song in the soundtrack called, ‘Moshanam (Beethoven Resurrected)’ in the Malayalam soundtrack, and ‘Thiruttu Isai (Beethoven Resurrected)’ in the Tamil soundtrack. ‘Thiruttu Isai’ literally translates to ‘Stolen Music’! Rajesh’s recreation, credited to Beethoven even in the title, is a funky and vibrant variant, significantly extending the original tune into newer musical forms and exploring its ominous side beautifully!
Here are two more Indian variants of ‘Für Elise’.