10 most famous works of Beethoven

Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective, does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

Beethoven is an extraordinary phenomenon not only in world music, but also in culture. His work is boldly put on a par with such giants of thought such as Shakespeare, Tolstoy, etc. Among all the representatives of European art of past centuries, the composer has no equal in the incredibly bold, innovative approach, depth and democracy of his works. Here are the top 10 most famous works of Beethoven.

The genius of philosophical and innovative music: top 10 famous works of Beethoven

Nomination a place Composition rating
The genius of philosophical and innovative music: top 10 famous works of Beethoven 10 Symphony No. 5, op. 67, 1808 4.1
9 Piano Sonata No. 14, op. 27 No. 2 ('Moonlight Sonata'), 1801 4.2
8 Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor, WoO 59, 'To Elise' ('Für Elise'), 1810 4.3
7 Concerto for violin and orchestra, op. 61, 1806 4.4
6 Sonata No. 9 for violin and piano, op. 47, 'Kreutzer Sonata', 1802 4.5
5 Symphony No. 9 in D minor, op. 125, 1824 4.6
4 'Egmont' ('Egmont'), op. 84, 1810 4.7
3 Piano Sonata No. 8, op. 13, 'Pathetic' 4.8
2 Piano Concerto No. 5, op. 73, 'The Emperor', 1811 4.9
1 Piano Sonata No. 23, op. 57, 'Apassionata', 1807 5.0

Symphony No. 5, op. 67, 1808

Rating: 4.1

The work is considered one of the most famous in the work of the great German composer and the most frequently performed around the world. For the first time, the fifth symphony was performed in the year of its presentation in the Austrian capital and immediately created a real sensation: the work gained a reputation as an outstanding one. The famous German romantic writer, storyteller, composer Ernst Hoffmann called Symphony No. 5 'one of the most significant works of the era'.

The beginning motive of the composition became truly iconic and acquired the name 'the motive of fate'. Its elements have penetrated many works (both classical and popular musical styles), in the sphere of television, cinema, etc. In fact, Symphony No. 5 has become a symbol of classical music.

The first sketches of the composition were made back in 1804, and the work on the work took quite a long time. This is due to the fact that Beethoven was simultaneously completing several more works. Among them – the 1st version of the opera 'Fidelio', the Fourth Symphony, Sonata No. 23, etc. The work was revised simultaneously with Symphony No. 6 and the premiere of both works of the composer took place on the same day.

During the period of writing the work, unpleasant experiences began in Beethoven's life: he gradually began to lose his hearing, alarming changes were taking place in the country (riots, occupation by Napoleonic wars, etc.).

Interesting fact. The premiere of Symphony No. 5 was unsuccessful. The concert lasted 4 hours, it was cold in the hall, the audience was tired. In addition, the rehearsals of the piece were not enough: the musicians did not perform very well, they even made mistakes.

Piano Sonata No. 14, op. 27 No. 2 ('Moonlight Sonata'), 1801

Rating: 4.2

It is difficult, perhaps, to find a person who has not heard this work at least once. The creation was completed by the composer during a period of severe mental anguish. Beethoven began to severely lose his hearing and he had to come very close to the orchestra in order to hear the music. Another blow for Ludwig was the break with the young Countess Juliet Guicciardi, whom he gave music lessons and wanted to marry her. She gave preference to Wenzel Galberg, eventually marrying him.

Sonata No. 14 is dedicated specifically to Beethoven's beloved. The work clearly traces a feeling of strong mental anguish from unrequited love, suffering from hearing loss, which is a real tragedy for any composer. Russian music critic Alexander Serov wrote about Beethoven: “The monument of love, which he wanted to create with this sonata, very naturally turned into a mausoleum.”

Sonata No. 14 got its name thanks to the music critic Ludwig Rellstab, who, 5 years after the composer's death, compared the work to 'moonlight over Lake Vierwaldstät'. Although many agree that this creation has nothing to do with moonlight. The composer himself gave both sonatas of the opus the subtitle 'in the spirit of fantasy'. The author wanted to emphasize that in terms of the form of the work, they are not similar to the classical composition of the sonata cycle, which was used at that time.

The first movement of the sonata begins with what is considered the middle movement in the traditional sonnet cycle. It is a slow, mournful music of 3 basic elements that form one whole, but at the same time harmoniously functioning separately.

The second movement of the sonata has a 'comforting' mood, which at that time was misunderstood by many performers. The fact is that there is a scherzo – part of a composition with a rather lively, fast pace. But in this case it is 'a flower between two abysses', as the Hungarian-German composer and pianist Liszt believed. Not particularly sensitive performers quickly moved in the second movement to an entertaining scherzando, which was completely inappropriate in this work.

And finally, the third movement is a sudden piano, adagio. Apparently, Beethoven wanted to convey the inner feelings of a person at the moment of being taken to an extreme. There comes a pause, and his breathing is restored, he realizes that the sobs and futile efforts are over. The soul is empty, but a force appears that accepts everything as it is.

Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor, WoO 59, 'To Elise' ('Für Elise'), 1810

Rating: 4.3

This creation by Beethoven is included in the mandatory curriculum of music schools around the world. Nearly 40 years after Beethoven's death, the composer's biographer Ludwig Zero discovered a manuscript with scores and dedication. In the hand of Ludwig, right on the sheet of music, it was written: 'Eliza in long memory from L. v. Beethoven, April 27 '. A couple of years later, Zero published the material in the form in which we know it now.

Already in the 21st century, Luca Chiantore, a researcher of the work of the German composer, made a confident assumption in his university report that Beethoven was not the author of Bagateli in the version presented by his biographer. According to an 8-year study by Chiantore, virtually all of the piece's material and theme certainly belong to the composer. But the autographed manuscript that gave the bagatelle its name simply did not exist.

There are several versions of who the work could actually be dedicated to. According to one of them, Beethoven dedicated his student Teresa von Drossdick, with whom he was unrequitedly in love. According to another, the bagatelle is dedicated to a close friend of the German genius of music – Elisabeth Reckel. According to the third option – creation – dedication to the wife of the Russian Emperor Alexander I – Elizaveta Alekseevna.

Concerto for violin and orchestra, op. 61, 1806

Rating: 4.4

This work is the only completed violin concerto in the author's work. Before creating the composition, Beethoven already had some experience of composing a piece for this string instrument. In 1790 she began work on the first violin concerto, but one movement has survived to this day. It is still unknown whether it is a completed creation, or whether it is part of some larger work.

Throughout the composer's life, the concerto was not only never performed: it was never published. The work was created by the author for a colleague and good friend of Beethoven – Franz Clement – director of the Vienna Theater, a famous composer and violinist at that time.

A partial premiere of the work took place at the Clement benefit performance in December 1806. The printed edition, published 2 years later, was also dedicated to the violinist. It is believed that the composer completed the recitals of the concert right before the performance of a friend, and he read some of his excerpts right from the sight, in between parts of the work entertaining the audience with variations of the creation.

The premiere did not become successful, and the concert was forgotten for almost half a century. Only in 1844 was the composition remembered again after it was performed by 12-year-old Joseph Joachim, accompanied by the orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society under the direction of Mendelssohn. Since then, the Beethoven Violin Concerto has been included in the list of the world's most famous works and is regularly performed on stage.

Sonata No. 9 for violin and piano, op. 47, 'Kreutzer Sonata', 1802

Rating: 4.5

The work is one of the most famous chamber creations of Ludwig van Beethoven. Although the sonata is written in the key of A minor, it is most often heard performed in A major. The total duration of the sonata ranges from 37 to 40 minutes, which was unusually long for a work of this form in the 19th century.

The sonata was originally dedicated to the British violinist George Bridgetauer, who became the first performer: the work was first performed in 1803 from the Vienna stage. The composer completed work on the sonata literally on the eve of the performance and did not have time to rewrite the notes, so he performed part of the work (the piano part) from drafts, while the violinist had to peep over the other part of it over Beethoven's shoulder, since at that time only one copy was made.

The dedication was written in a humorous form: 'Mulatto Sonata, composed for the mulatto Brishdauer, the big jester and mulatto composer' and has survived only in a draft version. The work got into print already with a completely different dedication – to Rodolphe Kreutzer, the famous violinist of that time.

The most common version of what happened is the fact that Bridgetauer allegedly insulted a lady known to Beethoven. According to the American musicologist and composer Slonimsky, this version is absurd, and the more likely reason for the introduced change can be considered the great popularity of Kreutzer for the then public. It is noteworthy that this violinist never performed Beethoven's sonata, moreover, he considered it inconvenient for playing the violin.

The sonata gained particular fame with the light filing of Leo Tolstoy, who wrote the story of the same name – The Kreutzer Sonata, which was filmed many times and attracted attention to the work performed in it.

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, op. 125, 1824

Rating: 4.6

The last symphony written by the great German composer. The work includes Odes to Joy, a poem by Schiller, sung by the soloists and the choir in the last movement. This is the first time in the history of music (unheard of at that time) when a major composer included a voice performance in such a work on a par with a musical one. By the way, the last (4th) movement of Symphony No. 9 is currently the anthem of the European Union (arranged by Herbert von Karajan).

Although the official title of the work is' Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 ', most often it is called' Choral '. Beethoven worked on this colossal, grandiose work for 2 years, although he conceived it throughout his entire career. Simple and, at the same time, majestic melody in a monumental choral accompaniment was destined to become the pinnacle of Beethoven's work, although he wrote it, being absolutely deaf.

The premiere of the symphony was dedicated to the Prussian king – the hero of the liberation struggle against Napoleonic troops and it took place in the Vienna theater in 1824. The completely deaf author did not conduct, but only showed the tempo, standing at the ramp. Although the work was not rehearsed well enough, it created a real sensation. The ovation was prohibitively long – longer than the greeting of the imperial family, and only the police managed to interrupt them. Headscarves and hats were thrown into the air so that the deaf author could see the reaction of the audience. From an excess of feelings, Beethoven lost consciousness.

'Egmont' ('Egmont'), op. 84, 1810

Rating: 4.7

In 1809, Beethoven received an order to create music for Goethe's tragedy 'Egmont' and worked on the work for several months, in his words 'solely out of love for the poet', with whom he repeatedly met and highly appreciated his work. In Goethe's tragedy, Count Egmont is single, in love and full of aspirations. His beloved Klerchen – a girl and common people – calls for an uprising to free Egmont and, being unable to survive his execution by the will of the Spanish governor, commits suicide.

The overture quickly gained popularity among listeners, taking its rightful place on the concert stage. In this work, Beethoven managed to fully convey the heroism of the struggle for freedom, which requires incredible efforts and colossal sacrifices, and clothed this idea in a clear, precise musical form.

The composition is dominated by gloomy, mournful motives, echoing the heavy chords in the spirit of the Spanish sarabanda. The mournful music gradually turns into courageous strong-willed notes and again abruptly goes into mourning – the hero dies. But suddenly the character of the piece changes: the growing joyful anticipation in the sounds turns into the sound of a military orchestra. This symphony, despite the tragic nature of the motive used, can be considered 'victorious', completing the entire overture.

Piano Sonata No. 8, op. 13, 'Pathetic'

Rating: 4.8

Eminent musicologists call this creation of the German composer an 'aesthetic manifesto'. For the first time published in 1799, the author dedicated the work to Prince Likhnovsky. Almost immediately, it was perceived as a masterpiece. The young composer, who at that time was 29 years old, had already begun to lose his hearing. Shocked by this fact, he even planned to stop his creative activity after the completion of Sonata No. 8.

Of course, there were attempts to find flaws in this composition, but time has put everything in its place: today, Sonata No. 8 is incredibly popular among performers and listeners all over the world. There were a great many statements on the topic of this work. For example, Liszt ridiculed the sonata, but at the same time found it 'simply magnificent'. One of the first music critics, Ulybyshev, said that the sonata is 'a masterpiece from beginning to end …'. The statements on Sonata No. 8 by the famous musicologist Romain Rolland are very valuable.

He believed that the work is a unique example of 'Beethoven's dialogues, genuine scenes from the drama of feelings'. Interestingly, his additional remark that 'passions for and against this sonata flared up as if about some kind of opera. Obviously, Beethoven, dissatisfied with this kind of victory, did not want to renew it. ' But, rather, the composer was dissatisfied not with the 'victory', but with the incessant rumors about the content of the sonata and its title, and therefore avoided any explanatory titles in the future.

Piano Concerto No. 5, op. 73, 'The Emperor', 1811

Rating: 4.9

Work on the concert was in full swing already in 1809, and, perhaps, it began as early as 1808. At that time, the composer's native country was restless: Napoleonic troops invaded Austria, and fierce battles broke out throughout Europe. The premiere of the finished work was postponed for a long time and took place only in December (according to other sources – in November) 1811 in Leipzig.

The concert aroused the enthusiasm of the audience and received a favorable response from the then critics. True, some complained about its excessive length (for the work of that time, the concert was really considered too long). But this is not important: the work of the German composer is distinguished by a capacitive ideological content, powerful performance and an incredible energetic impulse.

Unlike most of the concert pieces of that time, striving to naturally convey the sounds of battle, Beethoven's 5th Concerto has nothing in common with such compositions. Rather, it was a reflection of the patriotic movement of those years. Noteworthy in this concert is the unusual use of timpani. They are usually used to simulate natural noise (such as a thunderstorm). Here the timpani are used to enhance the dynamic uplift, emotional impetuosity, and powerful energy of the finale.

The great composer devoted many of his creations to friends, patrons of art, and this concert was no exception. Beethoven dedicated it to his pupil and patron, Archduke Rudolf of Austria.

Interesting fact. The second part of the concert was used in the credits of the Oscar-winning British film 'The King's Speech'.

Piano Sonata No. 23, op. 57, 'Apassionata', 1807

Rating: 5.0

This incredibly dramatic piece was dedicated to the ardent admirer of the composer's work – Count Brunswick. By the way, the name of the sonata does not belong to the author: it was added by the Hamburg publisher of the work and, since it perfectly expressed the essence of the composition, it was firmly entrenched in it.

In the year of the creation of the work, Beethoven was in heavy emotional distress. Disappointment in Napoleon, progressive deafness, love afflictions, mental loneliness – all this could not but affect the composer's work. Sonata No. 23 is a tragic beginning that in an unimaginable way flows into incredible willpower, a desire to fight evil.

Lenz spoke of the work as a “volcanic eruption”, the music critic Ulybyshev considered it “both frenzied and sublime.” Turgenev, in his story 'Unhappy', very vividly described his personal impression of Beethoven's creation: 'I felt that numbness, that cold and sweet horror of delight that instantly seizes the soul when beauty invades it with an unexpected raid.'

Beethoven himself considered this particular sonata to be the best of all his sonatas. This opinion has become generally accepted. The work clearly reflects the truly titanic struggle of will with the elements. The author himself once put it this way about his brainchild: 'read' Shakespeare's Tempest '.


Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

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