Beethoven’s 250th Birthday: Right here’s All the pieces You Must Know


No composer has shaped music like Ludwig van Beethoven. He took the popular forms of his time – symphony, string quartet, piano sonata, opera – and stretched them to their breaking points. He embodied the then new ideal of the musician as a passionate, politically committed romantic hero.

In honor of his 250th birthday – he was baptized December 17, 1770 and probably born a day or two earlier – writers and critics at the New York Times spent the year choosing their favorite shots. immerse yourself in his life and times; Trips from the house where he was born in Bonn to his grave in Vienna, Austria; speak to some of his best interpreters; and explores his extensive, influential work. If not all you need to know about Beethoven, it’s a pretty good start.

We asked some of our favorite artists what five minutes of his music they would play to make their friends fall in love with Beethoven. We have created our dream cycle from his nine symphonies and selected a favorite recording for each. And our classic chief critic describes how his works are constructed from tiny pieces of material.

“The time seemed ripe for a pilgrimage in search of Beethoven, the man,” wrote our reporter earlier this year. We also posted profiles of people who surrounded, nudged, and inspired him.

“He wasn’t someone who was content to write elegant music for easy listening,” said conductor John Eliot Gardiner, who uses raw, fresh instruments like those played in Beethoven’s day. Our critic wrote that this was “exactly what we needed in this year of Beethoven saturation”.

Our main critic, who wrote the disheartening Op. 110 Sonata in College examines the “extraordinary accomplishment” of Igor Levit’s new recording of the entire set while also appreciating Artur Schnabel’s classic cycle. And the pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard talks about why he still regards Beethoven as the avant-garde.

What is it like to hear all 17 of his string quartet works? It gave one writer “an acute awareness of the extraordinary range of sensations that Beethoven represents. Joy. Anger. Cunning. Gravitas. Sadness. Giggle. Despair. Holiness.”


Robert Dunfee