Ludwig van Beethoven
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/960x540/p01bqf5y.jpg
1770-12-17
https://musicbrainz.org/artist/1f9df192-a621-4f54-8850-2c5373b7eac9
Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven Biography (BBC)

The popular image of Beethoven as a morose individual who shunned society is only partly true. He did have a serious outlook on life, and in later years he had difficulty mixing with people because of his deafness, which emerged in his late twenties and gradually increased thereafter till his death. Yet he loved company, and had a ready wit. His letters contain many puns, and it was he who introduced the scherzo (literally, ‘joke’) into the symphony when he used one in his Symphony No. 2 instead of the customary minuet.

This Second Symphony already goes well beyond the models of Haydn and Mozart, the two chief influences on his style. Building on their example Beethoven continually strove to stretch the bounds of music to new limits, whether in his seven surviving concertos, 16 string quartets, 35 piano sonatas (including three very early ones) or other works.

Each of his nine symphonies (and an incipient tenth) is completely different from any previous one, and he showed similar originality in every major genre of the time, from his only opera Fidelio and his mighty Missa solemnis to his numerous settings of folk songs, which he treated in an entirely novel way. He achieved his goal through a combination of natural genius and sheer hard work: every one of his major compositions is the result of painstaking refinement, evident in the many thousands of pages of musical sketches that he wrote.

It is not always realised, however, that Beethoven was extraordinary in other ways too. Having no wife or family of his own, he spent enormous energy on helping his nephew, and he was deeply religious. Indeed his goodness and kindness were so evident to his contemporaries that at least three of them independently asserted that he was even greater as a human being than as a musician. Considering that many regard him as the greatest composer in history, such praise is astonishing.

Beethoven also responded strikingly to political upheavals – the French Revolution and the ensuing Napoleonic wars. Although no political activist, he made his hatred of tyranny very plain in works such as Fidelio and his music for Goethe’s play Egmont.

Yet it is the quality of his music that has ensured his lasting reputation. Although its novelty initially puzzled some of his contemporaries, repeated hearings and study have shown that it is based on firm foundations. Its combination of beauty and unpredictability, extreme emotional depth and intellectual rigour, across so many genres, is unsurpassed and probably always will be.

Profile © Barry Cooper


Ludwig van Beethoven Performances & Interviews


Featured Works


Ludwig van Beethoven Tracks

Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 II. Allegretto
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 II. Allegretto

Sort by

Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Sonata in C major, Op 2 No 3 (4th mvt)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Piano Sonata in C major, Op 2 No 3 (4th mvt)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Quartet in C major, WoO 36 No 3
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Piano Quartet in C major, WoO 36 No 3
Ludwig van Beethoven
Cello Sonata in C major, Op 102 No 1 (2nd and 3rd movements)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Cello Sonata in C major, Op 102 No 1 (2nd and 3rd movements)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No 4 in B flat major, Op 60 (final movement)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony No 4 in B flat major, Op 60 (final movement)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Sonata in A major, Op 2 No 2 (1st and 2nd movements)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Piano Sonata in A major, Op 2 No 2 (1st and 2nd movements)
Ludwig van Beethoven
String Quartet in B flat major, Op.130 (2nd movement)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
String Quartet in B flat major, Op.130 (2nd movement)
Ludwig van Beethoven
O Sweet Were The Hours (Scottish Songs, Op.108)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
O Sweet Were The Hours (Scottish Songs, Op.108)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Coriolan Op 62, (Overture)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Coriolan Op 62, (Overture)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58: III. Rondo (Vivace)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58: III. Rondo (Vivace)
Ludwig van Beethoven
String Quartet in C minor, Op 18 No 4 (1st and 2nd movements)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
String Quartet in C minor, Op 18 No 4 (1st and 2nd movements)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Violin Sonata in C minor, Op 30 No 2 (2nd movement)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Violin Sonata in C minor, Op 30 No 2 (2nd movement)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No 6 in F major, Op 68 (4th and 5th movements)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony No 6 in F major, Op 68 (4th and 5th movements)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Fugue in D major for organ, WoO 31
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Fugue in D major for organ, WoO 31
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Sonata No 24 in F sharp major, Op 78 (2nd movement)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Piano Sonata No 24 in F sharp major, Op 78 (2nd movement)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No 8 in F major, Op 93 (4th mvt)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony No 8 in F major, Op 93 (4th mvt)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Fugue from Handel's Solomon Hess 36
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Fugue from Handel's Solomon Hess 36
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No 8 in F major, Op 93
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony No 8 in F major, Op 93
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony no. 2 in D major Op.36: 3rd mvt Scherzo
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony no. 2 in D major Op.36: 3rd mvt Scherzo
Ludwig van Beethoven
IV. Finale (allegro molto) from String Quartet in C major, op 59 no 3
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
IV. Finale (allegro molto) from String Quartet in C major, op 59 no 3
Ludwig van Beethoven
Moonlight Sonata: 1st Movement
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Moonlight Sonata: 1st Movement
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No 2 in D major, Op 36 (4th mvt)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony No 2 in D major, Op 36 (4th mvt)
Ludwig van Beethoven
12 Variations on the 'Menuet a la Vigano' WoO 68
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
12 Variations on the 'Menuet a la Vigano' WoO 68
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 'Appassionata' - Allegro assai
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 'Appassionata' - Allegro assai
Ludwig van Beethoven
'Moonlight' Sonata, Op 27 No 2
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
'Moonlight' Sonata, Op 27 No 2
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony no. 6 in F major Op.68 (Pastoral)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony no. 6 in F major Op.68 (Pastoral)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Quartet in B flat major Op.130 for strings vers. with Grosse Fuge finale
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Quartet in B flat major Op.130 for strings vers. with Grosse Fuge finale
Ludwig van Beethoven
Concerto no. 5 in E flat major Op.73 (Emperor) for piano and orchestra
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Concerto no. 5 in E flat major Op.73 (Emperor) for piano and orchestra
Ludwig van Beethoven
Sonata quasi una fantasia in C sharp minor Op.27`2 (Moonlight) for piano (Piano sonata no.14)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Sonata quasi una fantasia in C sharp minor Op.27`2 (Moonlight) for piano (Piano sonata no.14)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony no. 1 in C major Op.21
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony no. 1 in C major Op.21
Ludwig van Beethoven
Wellingtons Sieg or Die Schlacht bei Vittoria Op.91 (Battle symphony)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Wellingtons Sieg or Die Schlacht bei Vittoria Op.91 (Battle symphony)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Der Glorreiche Augenblick - cantata Op.136 for soloists, chorus, children and orchestra
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Der Glorreiche Augenblick - cantata Op.136 for soloists, chorus, children and orchestra
Ludwig van Beethoven
7 Variations on 'God save the King' in C major WoO.78 for piano
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
7 Variations on 'God save the King' in C major WoO.78 for piano
Ludwig van Beethoven
5 Variations on 'Rule Britannia' in D major WoO.79 for piano
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
5 Variations on 'Rule Britannia' in D major WoO.79 for piano
Ludwig van Beethoven
Sonata no. 29 in B flat major Op.106 (Hammerklavier) for piano
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Sonata no. 29 in B flat major Op.106 (Hammerklavier) for piano
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony no. 9 in D minor Op.125 (Choral)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony no. 9 in D minor Op.125 (Choral)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Bagatelle (fur Elise) in A minor WoO.59 for piano
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Bagatelle (fur Elise) in A minor WoO.59 for piano
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No 5 in C minor, Op 67
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony No 5 in C minor, Op 67
Ludwig van Beethoven
Egmont - incidental music Op.84
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Egmont - incidental music Op.84
Ludwig van Beethoven
Romance in G major, Op.40
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Romance in G major, Op.40
Ludwig van Beethoven
Romance in G major for Violin and Orchestra Op 40
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Romance in G major for Violin and Orchestra Op 40
Ludwig van Beethoven
Wellington's Victory (Battle Symphony)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Wellington's Victory (Battle Symphony)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony no. 9 (Op.125) in D minor "Choral"; Mvt 4 Finale Chorus "An die Freude"
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony no. 9 (Op.125) in D minor "Choral"; Mvt 4 Finale Chorus "An die Freude"
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Trio in E flat major, Op.1`1 (1st mvt)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Piano Trio in E flat major, Op.1`1 (1st mvt)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony no. 5 in C minor
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Symphony no. 5 in C minor
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor Op,10 no.1 ii: adagio molto
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor Op,10 no.1 ii: adagio molto
Ludwig van Beethoven
Rondo a capriccio in G major, Op.129, 'Rage Over a Lost Penny'
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Rondo a capriccio in G major, Op.129, 'Rage Over a Lost Penny'
Ludwig van Beethoven
Romance in F major Op 50 (orig. for violin and orchestra)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Romance in F major Op 50 (orig. for violin and orchestra)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Egmont, Op 84 (Overture)
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Egmont, Op 84 (Overture)
Ludwig van Beethoven
Zur Namensfeier overture, Op.115
https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/256x256/p065ztr1.jpg
link
Zur Namensfeier overture, Op.115

Zur Namensfeier overture, Op.115

Orchestra
Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra
Conductor
Last played on
Load more tracks

Latest Ludwig van Beethoven News

    6 BBC broadcasts that will transport you deep into the tranquility of British nature
    Drift away into a pastoral idyll with these programmes and performances inspired by, and about, the countryside
    Your favourite Proms moments from the 2015 season
    Enjoy this list of just a few great performances from a blockbuster season
Back to artist