V.com weekend vote: What is your favorite music by Beethoven?

September 6, 2020, 1:12 AM · In case you hadn't heard yet, the year 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of the great German composer, Ludwig van Beethoven, born on Dec. 17, 1770. (I looked it up, that makes it the "sestercentennial" of his birth.)

Beethoven's upcoming big birthday may be one of the few good things about 2020. Certainly he is a man worth celebrating - his music is a true gift to humankind.


Beethoven was an incredibly prolific composer, who continued to compose even after going deaf. The average person on the street may have heard of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony or the Ode to Joy. But there is an enormous world of not only symphonies but string quartets, piano sonatas, piano/violin sonatas, choral works, operas, incidental music and more.

Of course, many of the concerts and events planned around his anniversary were canceled. But many have simply been delayed, or gone online, or altered to fit new guidelines. One of the last concerts I attended before lockdown was an unforgettable performance by Christian Tetzlaff, playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in February. But of course, I've seen nothing in person, nor have I played anything in person, since then. Still, even during the pandemic, the show has gone on; for example, in mid-summer the MirĂ³ Quartet performed all 16 Beethoven String Quartets live, via livestream, as part of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival.

Despite the limitations of these pandemic days, there are still plenty of ways we can personally celebration Beethoven. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Listen to all nine of Beethoven's Symphonies
  2. Find a streamed live performance of Beethoven (share your suggestions if you know of any!)
  3. Play a piece by Beethoven: the concerto, a sonata, or a chamber piece, if you have the personnel
  4. Read a book about Beethoven
  5. Watch the 1994 movie, "Immortal Beloved" - (or don't - I liked it, but opinions really vary!)
  6. Listen to seven different recordings of the Beethoven Violin Concerto by seven different violinists

Have you celebrated Beethoven this year? Have you witnessed or participated in any Beethoven performances? Have you watched an online performance, found a new recording?

For this vote, I'd like you to tell us about your favorite (or current favorite) work or works by Beethoven. In what of the following categories does it fall? Do you have any recordings you would recommend? Please pick your favorite Beethoven "genre" in the poll, and then tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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September 6, 2020 at 10:55 AM · I voted "other" but what I mean is "all of the above". Beethoven is one of those composers that make it impossible to pick a favorite; my favorite is always the piece I heard or played most recently.

September 6, 2020 at 12:47 PM · While I like most of the Beethoven works, I have a deep love of the String Quartet genre.

I found John Suchet's biography of Beethoven readable while the "definitive" one, being highly detailed, is more for people with insomnia.

"Immortal Beloved" is an interesting interpretation of what it might have been like to work with Beethoven. No doubt about his musical talent, yet he was, like the rest of us, a very complex person with lots-and-lots of character flaws.

He did change the trajectory of western music building the bridge between Classical and Romantic as well as establishing a very high bar for all composers who followed him.

September 6, 2020 at 01:00 PM · No question here. The Violin Concerto, Op. 61. And for reasons I have documented here and there on this website over the years. I even have a favorite performance: Zino Francescatti, Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra (1950, I think). Recorded in one take.

Happy Birthday, Ludwig.

September 6, 2020 at 07:03 PM · Beethoven's Cavatina from his quartet Op. 130 was the final piece on Voyager's Golden Record sent into the space in 1977. When one listens to this piece, one truly feels all that humanity has to offer!

To celebrate Beethoven's anniversary, for my university orchestra, I commissioned an original piece of music that will be based on Beethoven's Heiligenstadt Testament. Rehearsals start in three weeks. Students are reading Testament, listening to Beethoven's music, and all involved in this project are very excited about learning and coming up with a new piece of music inspired by Beethoven's not easy life. The project will culminate in virtual video.

Happy birthday Ludwig and thank you for your music!

September 7, 2020 at 01:25 AM · Even though I love the piano sonatas and the chamber music -- the trios and the quartets especially -- I had to vote for the symphonies. The scope and originality of their musical content -- and their power to reach people beyond just "music lovers" nevertheless -- puts them in a special category.

September 7, 2020 at 02:17 PM · Dijana, pity Robert Simpson wasn't alive to pick up your commission!

I voted for the Missa Solennis - The things he may have beiieved his music preaches with unparallelled conviction. But there are other highlights, and sometimes he tended to promote atmospheres in triplicate before going on to something else. Example triplets I am aware of are (a) the slow movements of the piano sonata Op 10 No 3, The violin and piano sonata Op 12 No2, and to a lesser extent, the string trio Op 9 No 2. and (b) the violin concerto, the 4th piano concerto, and, to a slightly lesser extent, the 4th symphony.

September 7, 2020 at 07:54 PM · I agree that it is very hard to choose favorites, when it comes to Beethoven. I voted for the symphonies, but the concerto! The quartets! The choral works!

Dijana, please be sure to share that video with us, once your students have completed it!

September 7, 2020 at 07:54 PM · I agree that it is very hard to choose favorites, when it comes to Beethoven. I voted for the symphonies, but the concerto! The quartets! The choral works!

Dijana, please be sure to share that video with us, once your students have completed it!

September 7, 2020 at 08:52 PM · If you don't already know it, find time to familiarize yourself with the Choral Fantasia Op.80 - one of Beethoven's most overlooked works!

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