Beginners Guide to Beethoven

Making Beethoven's Most Famous Works More Accessible

Ludwig Van Beethoven
Three Lions / Stringer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the world's most famous and influential composers of classical music. His music has been played all over the world for over 180 years. However, there are many people out there left in the dark about the facts, life, and music of Beethoven. In this Beginners Guide to Beethoven, you'll find links to biographies, histories, CD recommendations, and sound clips of Beethoven's music.

Who is Beethoven?

Ludwig van Beethoven, perhaps the most famous composer of all time, apart from his other works, only wrote nine symphonies. Compare that to Haydn and Mozart, who, combined, wrote over 150 symphonies! What made Beethoven special was his successful attempt to break the mold of the highly structured and refined rules of classical period composition. Many view Beethoven as the bridge connecting the classical period to the romantic period.

Interesting Beethoven Facts

  • Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' from Symphony No. 9 was adopted as the European National Anthem in 1972.
  • Beethoven's most important patron, as well as regular piano student, Archduke Rudolph, received eleven major dedications and four canons from Beethoven.
  • Beethoven set aside his work on his famous Symphony No. 5 to work on Symphony No. 4, which means Symphony No. 5 is technically Symphony No. 4.

Beethoven’s Symphonies

It took Beethoven twenty-five years to compose all nine symphonies. He was very meticulous about his work, often reworking it many times over. This obsessive desire to perfect his music may have been caused in part to his loss of hearing while in his 20’s. How could he be taken seriously as a composer if he couldn’t hear his own music? Nevertheless, his efforts have made a profound impact in the world. Nearly 180 years later, orchestras all over the globe are playing his symphonies, people are buying them on CDs, and millions of people are listening to them on television and radio. Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 (Eroica), Symphony No. 5, and Symphony No. 9 (Ode to Joy or Choral Symphony) are his most famous symphonies.

Watch and listen to Beethoven’s Symphonies

No One-Hit Wonders for Beethoven

Far be it from one-hit wonders, most of Beethoven's music is extremely popular. Apart from Beethoven's symphonies, his other works have been and are just as influential. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise are Beethoven’s most famous piano works. It’s safe to say that anyone reading this has heard either one of these pieces. Hear clips of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise to refresh your memory. As well as his piano sonatas, Beethoven’s string quartets and concertos are also among his most popular works.

Highly Recommended Beethoven Music CDs

Beethoven’s music is everywhere, so for the beginner, which Beethoven music albums are worth purchasing? Here are 6 Beethoven music albums personally selected to provide you with a high quality, cross-section cut of Beethoven music. From the complete recordings of all nine symphonies, piano sonatas, and string quartets, as well as several concertos, you can successfully create a Beethoven "mini" music library.