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Five Musical Pieces to Celebrate Beethoven’s 250th Birthday

17:00 September 21, 2020
By: Abbey Hebert

This year commemorates Ludwig van Beethoven's 250th birthday. According to Biography, he was born in Bonn, Germany, on December 16, 1770, and died on March 26, 1827. His mother, Maria Magdalena van Beethoven, was a very religious woman, while his father, Johann van Beethoven, was a mundane court singer who was known better for his alcoholism. Later in Beethoven's career, specifically in 1801, he exposed that he was going deaf in a letter to his friend Franz Wegeler; most of his most popular works were written during this time. That being said, continue to the list below to see which of this revolutionary pianist's pieces to listen to in order to best commemorate his birthday.

Für Elise

Click here to listen to Beethoven's notable piano masterpiece. According to an article by Classic FM, Für Elise was not released until 1867, which was 40 years after Beethoven's death. The title directly translates to "For Elise" in German; however, Beethoven intended for the title to be "Für Therese," and his handwriting was simply misread. The iconic beginning of this piece only consists of E and D#.

Fifth Symphony in C Minor

Click here to listen to this timeless classic. In an article by WRTI, it is explained that the first four short notes on this iconic piece spells V in Morse Code, which Beethoven intended to stand for victory. Because of this, BBC radio broadcasted the beginning of this symphony during World War II. Beethoven began working on this work in 1804, three years after he wrote the letter to Franz Wegeler, acknowledging that he was losing his hearing.

Piano Sonata No. 14

This famous sonata is also commonly known as "Moonlight Sonata." An article by Portland Piano Lab states that Ludwig Rellstab, a German music critic, actually created the name "Moonlight Sonata" in 1802 (five years after Beethoven's death) because the first movement made him think about the moon's reflection on Lake Lucerne. This sonata is one of the first pieces Beethoven wrote that had not been commissioned; this was one of his initial statement pieces as an independent musician.

Symphony No. 7

Click here to listen to Beethoven's iconic piece. According to an article by NPR, the concert premiering this symphony was a charity concert for soldiers who were wounded in the battle of Hanau. Beethoven wrote this symphony from 1811-1812 and held the concert on December 8, 1813. This symphony had positive motifs, such as celebration and victory—perfect for soldiers who just finished a war.

Sonata No. 8 in C Minor

This sonata, No. 8, is also referred to as the "Pathétique." An article by BBC UK explains that this piece was revolutionary during the Classical period; it helped to pave the way for the Romantic period, which was filled with emotionally charged music. Beethoven, due to his experimental nature in both the Classical and Romantic eras, is often referred to as a Classical Romantic composer. Similar to his Fifth Symphony, he wrote this piece around the time he was losing his hearing, which explains the frustration and overwhelming emotion found in the piece.

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