Beethoven’s Top 10 Works


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portrait of Beethoven with "Top Ten" text overlaidWFMT looks back on Ludwig van Beethoven's most important works. Here is our ranking of the eminent composers top 10 most important compositions.

written 1805/revised 1814

WFMT music director Oliver Camacho says:
Fidelio is very important for the history of German opera, adding a political component to the well-worn Rescue Opera plot device while affirming the archetype of the Heroic German Woman. Leonora/Fidelio is one of the best characters in opera, and the homoerotic, gender-bending scenarios in which she finds herself is simultaneously very 'Baroque' while feeling of the current zeitgeist.

Moonlight Piano Sonata No. 14
written 1801

WFMT music director Oliver Camacho says:
The Moonlight Sonata may be a cliché choice, but as a singer, the first movement feels like the best wordless Lied Beethoven never wrote. And the Presto agitato still thrills.

Violin Concerto
written 1806
WFMT Radio Network production and syndication manager & producer Becky Nystedt says:
It's Beethoven's only violin concerto... It is so powerful, recognizable, and plainly, moving.
Essential Recording:
Pathétique Piano Sonata No. 8
written 1798

WFMT host and producer Robbie Ellis says::
​​The Pathétique sonata is I think Beethoven's best. It's the most cogent, all three movements have banger melodies, and the mood is "Listen up, world, I might join the 27 Club at any moment!" A solo piece can be personal in a way an orchestral piece can't.

Essential Recording:
Archduke Trio in E-Flat
written 1811
Essential Recording:
Piano Concerto No. 4
written 1805-1806
WFMT music director Oliver Camacho says:
The Piano Concerto No. 4 is the best of Beethoven as the poet and the outsider, trying to be understood by society and, like Orpheus, trying to tame a savage society with music that speaks a gentle peace.
Essential Recording:
Hammerklavier Piano Sonata No. 29
written 1818
Grosse Fuge
written 1826
WFMT Radio Network director Estlin Usher says:
Beethoven's genius was in his development, breaking new ground and instilling new ideas into old forms. The Grosse Fuge is a stellar example of this...
Eroica Symphony No. 3
written 1803
WFMT host and producer Robbie Ellis says:
The Eroica Symphony is probably the biggest single stylistic turning point in Western music... maybe jointly with The Rite of Spring and Kind of Blue. It is so thoroughly different from what had come before. Yeah, Beethoven 5 gets all the angsty love, but it was the Eroica that smacked Western European music out of the Classically galant and into the Romantically raw.
Essential Recording:
Symphony No. 9
written 1824
WFMT host and producer Robbie Ellis says:
It intimidated the crap out of Brahms.

WFMT's former music director Andi Lamoreaux says:
The Symphony No. 9 went beyond usual symphonic rules to create a new genre of choral symphonies. It also proclaimed its composer's sense of hope and joy even in the face of adversity, and his belief in the brother/sisterhood of all humankind.

Missa solemnis
Emperor Piano Concerto No. 5
String Quartet No. 15
Triple Concerto
Pastoral Symphony No. 6