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Beethoven's famous "Für Elise" is literally translated as "À Elise" in French, but that's not what was chosen (by whom ?); instead it is customarily translated as "Lettre à Elise" ("Letter for Elise", "Brief für Elise").

Is there any reason why that's so ? "À Elise" doesn't sound any worse to my (french) ear.

  • Translations of titles are often either bad or have nothing to do with the original. If you don't like a specific translation you can just use the original (in English the title of this piece is not normally translated). – PiedPiper Aug 30 '20 at 9:04
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When Ludwig Nohl discovered "Für Elise" he included the work in his 1867 publication "New Beethoven Letters" (Neue Briefe Beethovens) (pages 28-33). "Für Elise" merely refers to the letter written to Elise, and is a name applied after Nohl, rather than by Nohl himself. For comparison, other collected letters of Beethoven are entitled with the name of the intended recipient.

The French title "Lettre à Elise" ("Letter for Elise", "Brief für Elise") is most likely an association with Nohl's publication owing to the composition being included within the letter.

I have been unable to locate a French translation of "Neue Briefe Beethovens" to verify whether the composition was given this title from a translation of Nohl. The balance of probability is that the title "Lettre à Elise" was applied through common usage and became fixed.

It is unlikely that we will ever know who first gave the work this French title.

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