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Ludwig van Beethoven was a classical composer who was baptized on December 17, 1770 and died on March 26, 1827. He is usually called just “Beethoven”.

Many people believe Beethoven was the single greatest composer of all time. He is undoubtedly one of the best known and most loved. His most famous works include his 5th Symphony, 9th Symphony, Fr Elise, and the Moonlight Sonata.

Beethoven was born in Bonn, Germany. His mother was Magdalena Keverich and his father was Johann Beethoven. They named their son after his grandfather.

He moved to Vienna when he was 22, where he studied under Franz Joseph Haydn. In Vienna he earned a reputation as a piano virtuoso and improvisor, and began publishing his own compositions soon after. By the early 1800s he had established his reputation as a great and daring composer.

Beethoven began to lose his hearing at least by 1801. He continued composing nonetheless, and his 9th Symphony, amongst many other works, was composed after he had become totally deaf.

Beethoven's Piano Music
Beethoven used the piano, the instrument with which he particularly identified, to chart a new course for music
by Thomas May

When he was an ambitious young man just coming of age, Beethoven relocated in 1792 from provincial Bonn to the musical capital of Vienna. There the musician made his first indelible impressions as a pianist of blazing originality in the salons of the aristocracy. Beethoven's ability to wield a profoundly hypnotic spell through his powers of improvisation at the keyboard, along the way frequently snapping strings and splintering hammers, was the topic of many a contemporary diary. The instrument seemed an extension of his personality--even after the point where Beethoven's increasing deafness made it impossible to play in public--and the composer used it as a medium to communicate his visionary individualism. The cycle of 32 sonatas he composed remains the bible of any serious pianist's repertory. These works, as with Beethoven's series of string quartets, constitute an intimate portrait of the artist's development. They illustrate, with their refinements of the past and mind-expanding innovations, the great Beethoven paradox: that music so intensely personal can affect its listeners with such universal resonance and inevitability .[read more...]

recommended recordings
Beethoven: Symphonien Nos. 5 & 7 / Kleiber, Vienna PO
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor: Carlos Kleiber
Ensemble: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #47400 / January 23, 1996

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Long regarded as the quintessential interpretation of the most popular and best-loved symphony ever written, this performance of the Fifth has everything: passion, precision, drama, lyric beauty, and a coiled fury in the first movement that sets your pulse racing from the very first note. Carlos Kleiber has made very few recordings in his distinguished career, but almost all are special. If you own no other copy of this symphony, this is the one to get. It comes with an exceptional performance...Read more

Beethoven: Late String Quartets / Guarneri Quartet
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Ensemble: Guarneri String Quartet
Bmg/Rca Victor - #60458 / August 7, 1990

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The Guarneri Quartet has forgotten more about the late quartets of Beethoven than most other ensembles will ever know. They understand the profound lyrical impulse behind these works, and they manage the paradoxical feat of imparting a sublime sense of inevitability to the music while achieving spontaneity at the same time. The interpretations serve the music admirably, though the sound is somewhat veiled. Although the set is rather awkwardly laid out--Op. 127 is split between two discs, and the...Read more

Beethoven: Symphonies no 3 & 9, etc / Bhm, Vienna PO
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor: Karl Bhm
Performer: Dame Gwyneth Jones, Karl Ridderbusch, et al.
Ensemble: Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Opera Chorus
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #37368 / April 11, 1995

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This is one of the greatest recordings of the famous Ninth Symphony. It has long been overshadowed by Karajan's three recordings for the same label, as well as Bernstein's version with the same orchestra. But put them all on your CD player and compare, and this is the one you'll be coming back to. Bhm was the least glamorous of conductors, but he approaches the Ninth with messianic zeal and a fanatical gleam in his eye. The opening movement is a cataclysm, the sublime slow movement never loses...Read more

Beethoven: "Moonlight" Sonata, etc / Rudolf Serkin
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer: Rudolf Serkin
Sony Classics - #37219 / January 1, 1987

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Rudolf Serkin's early 1960s accounts of the most popular "name" sonatas, on a CBS "Great Performances" mid-price CD, are compellingly direct and offer excellent value. The playing is deliberate, but hardly theatrical: as always, the pianist emphasizes the virtues of literalism. The recordings are closely miked and sonorous, and convey good piano tone along with every breath, sigh, groan, and vocalization Serkin produces. The Adagio of the Pathetique is especially lovely. --Ted Libbey Read more

Beethoven: Sonaten "Moonlight", "Pastorale", etc / Pollini

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer: Maurizio Pollini
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #27770 / February 11, 1992

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One of the best versions of the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata. Very dramatic and almost painful.

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis / John Eliot Gardiner
Ludwig van Beethoven(Composer), et al
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner
Performer: William Kendall, Charlotte Margiono, et al.
Ensemble: English Baroque Soloists, Monteverdi Choir
Uni/Archiv - #29779 / February 19, 1991

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John Eliot Gardiner's interpretation of the Missa Solemnis stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of his career and one of the most impressive achievements of the period-instrument movement. The concept is grand and powerful, lively though not unduly brisk. The execution is simply electrifying: Gardiner has the orchestra on the edge of their seats, the chorus going all-out, and sparks flying everywhere. Excellent singing from the soloists and a vivid recording complete the triumph, and...Read more

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis; Mozart: Coronation Mass / Karajan
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Performer: Walter Berry, Gundula Janowitz, et al.
Ensemble: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Singverein
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #23913 / February 13, 1989

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Of the many recordings there is no rival to this one. It features one of finest vocal quartets this (last!) century. Although not perfect -- the tempi at times sluggish, the balance odd in places, and the violin occasionally wanders out of tune -- nevertheless, the pathos of the performance are remarkably moving. Expressive directing by Karajan (one of his best performances); remarkably magnificent singing (notably by Wunderlich and Janowitz).

works & recordings
  • Chamber Music
    Trios, Quartets, Quintets

  • Choral
    Secular and sacred choral music. Oratorios, Masses, Partsongs, Hymns, Carols

  • Instrumental
    Sonatas, Suites, Overtures, Minuets, Variations, Transcriptions, Dance Music

  • Orchestra
    Concertos, Symphonies

  • Theatrical Works
    Ballet, Stage, Incidental Music, Film Scores

  • Vocal and Opera
    Opera, Operetta, Song, Lieder, Musical Theater

Complete List of Works and Recordings

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