Composer Study: Beethoven

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Recommended Listening

Beethoven’s music is grouped into three periods, early, middle, and late.  

Note: You might wonder what “Op.” means – this stands for “Opus” and the numbers refer to the order in which a composer wrote his works. So, Op. 1 would mean the first piece he wrote. The higher the number, the later in his life the piece was composed.

Early Period

Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 - “Pathétique”

Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27 - “Moonlight”

Middle Period

Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Op. 55 – “Eroica” (“Heroic”)  

This is a BBC documentary film which dramatizes the first performance of this symphony, with actual musicians playing period instruments. It gives a fantastic background on the time period and Beethoven himself, as well as a performance of the entire symphony.

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, Op. 61

Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 – “Fate”

This video features a fantastic young conductor who grew up in a poor family in Venezuela and was part of the youth symphony program there called “El Sistema”

Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68 – “Pastoral”

Late Period

Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 – “Choral” 

This, Beethoven’s last symphony, calls for a choir and four vocal soloists to join in for the final movement. The words that are sung in German are based on the poem “Ode to Joy” by Frederick Schiller. The final stanza reads:

Do you bow down before Him, you millions?
Do you sense your Creator, O world?
Seek Him above the canopy of stars!
He must dwell beyond the stars.

Recommended Reading

Early Elementary

Late Elementary

Beethoven Lives Upstairs
Starring Neil Munro, Illya Woloshyn, Fiona Reid, Paul Soles, Albert Schultz

High School and Adults