Beethoven's Music - Essential Works by the Classical Master

Beethoven's music is an essential part of the classical repertoire. The genius's powerful, ground-breaking pieces are some of mankind's favorite music.

Beethoven felt very strongly about music. He thought it was a pure art, and worshiped it almost like a religion ("this great goddess"). He hated all types of poor or psuedo-art. Creating music gave him extreme joy, which is definitely reflected in the final product!

But it usually took him several goes to get it right. Music didn't just arrive in his head uninvited - he had to labor away, carefully crafting it out. The sketch-book for his Ninth Symphony has over 20 different melodies for the Ode to Joy!

Here is a list of the most important Beethoven music...

  • Septet, Op. 20. This charming piece for seven instruments was one of Beethoven's first "hits" with musical society. You can see the development of his later style in here.

  • Moonlight Sonata, No. 14 Op. 27. A hugely famous piece, with a slow, dark first movement. The story goes that the name was inspired by moonlight Beethoven saw while he improvised away on the piano. (In fact, it was named Moonlight by a critic years after the composer died!)

  • Pathetique Sonata, No. 8 Op. 30: One of Beethoven's early piano sonatas. The slow second movement is well-known for the tragedy and deep emotions it expresses. I love this sonata - it sounds very nostalgic, but somehow comforting as well.

  • Adelaide, Op. 46. Beethoven's most popular song. The lyrics are about idealized love for an unattainable woman, an experience which Beethoven had many times in his life.

  • Eroica Symphony (Third), Op. 55. A ground-breaking piece, which Beethoven originally dedicated to Napoleon. When Napoleon crowned himself Emperor though, Beethoven flew into a rage and violently scratched out the dedicatee's name on the manuscript.

    The piece is important because it marks the beginning of a new type of music, where the composer's personal emotions are expressed (in this case Beethoven's anger over his increasing deafness).

  • Fifth Symphony, Op. 67. One of the best-known pieces in all of classical music. It opens with a famous "Fate" motif which probably nearly everyone would recognize nowadays. Beethoven wrote the piece during a time of political turmoil and personal crisis. The works' innovations were celebrated as "revolutionary" at the time.

  • Fidelio, Op. 72. Beethoven's only opera. The story is about a wife who disguises herself as a prison guard to rescue her husband. Beethoven liked the heroic and political ideals of the story.

  • Kreutzer Sonata, the groundbreaking violin sonata which redefined the genre.

  • Emperor piano concerto, (Fifth) Op. 73. Beethoven's last and most famous piano concerto, this is a strong and majestic piece.

  • Missa Solemnis, Op. 123. One of Beethoven's greatest achievements. It's an epic setting of a sacred Mass.

  • Choral Symphony (Ninth), Op. 125. Ah, the Ninth Symphony! I would say this is Beethoven's masterpiece. It's an extremely powerful symphony, which revolutionized all of music. The composer innovatively added a choir onto the last movement, to sing Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy" to Beethoven's magnificent melody. Astonishingly, Beethoven wrote it when he was completely deaf.

  • Grand Fugue, Op. 133. For string quartet. This piece was originally the finale of a different string quartet, but the audience couldn't understand it, and so Beethoven wrote a different finale and published the Grand Fugue separately. It's a complex and experimental piece, which Stravinsky said would "always sound contemporary".

  • Fur Elise (no opus number). Beethoven's famous "Bagatelle", this is another piece which has an instantly recognizable melody. A great beginner's piano piece!

Here are some of my favorite pieces of Beethoven music...

Symphony No. 7, Op. 92. A rousing symphony. I think Wagner described it best as "the apotheosis of the dance". To prove his point, he then danced to it, accompanied on the piano by Liszt. I wonder what Beethoven would have made of it...

Here's the entire Symphony, conducted by Herbert Von Karajan:

Egmont Overture, Op. 84. This is music for a play by Goethe. I really like the noble and dramatic depictions of heroism in this piece. Here's an excellent performance with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic:

Beethoven music has inspired listeners, musicians, and humans in general. The grand classical master was definitely one of the greatest composers of all-time.

You can also hear a large selection of Beethoven's music easily at Enjoy!

There's also loads of rare Beethoven pieces (mostly unrecorded) to hear in midi format over the The Unheard Beethoven.

If you want a quick introduction to Beethoven's most popular pieces, I recommend The Best of Beethoven:

Best of Beethoven

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