MuseData: Ludwig van Beethoven

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Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) brought the symphony, the concerto, and the string quartet to heights not imagined by his musical predecessors or peers. Born in Bonn (Germany), he flourished in Vienna (Austria), where he moved in 1792. Soon famous as a pianist, his compositional style began to change course a decade later, when the first signs of his deafness began to appear. A decade after that (in 1812 and 1813), Beethoven suffered financially from the devaluation of Austrian currency. He also suffered emotionally from the illness of his brother and the resulting prospect (never fully realized) of becoming the guardian of his nephew Karl. Beethoven’s fortunes improved over the next few years, but his hearing continuously declined. The year 1822 saw the completion of what were to be his two final piano sonatas and the Missa Solemnis. The Ninth Symphony was begun in that year. Beethoven remained engaged with writing string quartets almost until his death.

1 Orchestral Repertory

1.1 Symphonies

Beethoven’s works were predominately for instruments, but among them there was immense variety of types and styles, ranging from 29 short piano pieces to his final choral symphony (the Ninth). His orchestral works and string quartets enjoy great currency today. Most of Beethoven’s nine symphonies and seven concertos make stellar contributions to their respective repertories.

Apart from No. 6, the “Pastoral”, which has five movements, and No. 9, which accumulates nineteen segments in its construction of a pyramid of sounds and textures, the symphonies are four-movement works with outer movements in relatively fast tempos. The second movement is typically slow and pensive. The third is a minuet or scherzo employing a common highly patterned structure.

1.1.1 Manuscript and Early Printed Resources Online

Several repositories of Beethoven manuscripts, letters, and early printed editions offer access to these artifacts of the symphonies from their first conception onward.

The Beethoven-Haus [1] in Bonn has digitized more than 26,000 folios of music, letters, lithographs, and other artifacts associated with Beethoven, his family, friends, and contemporaries. Musical sketches housed in Bonn are confined to the period 1807-1815. Beethoven's transcriptions of portions of the works of other composers and music theorists constitute one of the unusual categories of inclusions. See

The Beethoven Center in San Jose, California, holds more than 2,200 early editions of Beethoven's music together with much other documentation. In addition to 300 first editions, it also possesses a manuscript copy of the Fifth Symphony [2].

The State Library of the Prussian Cultural Heritage [3] in Berlin has an online viewer for such materials pertinent to the Ninth Symphony at

1.1.2 MuseData Downloadable Editions of the Beethoven Symphonies

In the table below the scores are divided into movements. Additional tools and some parts are available at our website “The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven: A Digital Edition” (

Opus Title Composition
Data CCARH Score
Op. 21 Symphony No. 1 in C major 1799-1800 1801 sym1    full: 1, 2, 3, 4
Op. 36 Symphony No. 2 in D major 1801-1802 1804 sym2 full: 1, 2, 3, 4
Op. 55 Symphony No. 3 in E major ("Eroica") 1803 1806 sym3 full: 1, 2, 3, 4
Op. 60 Symphony No. 4 in B major 1807 1808 sym4 full: 1, 2, 3, 4
Op. 67 Symphony No. 5 in C minor 1807-1808 1809 sym5 full: 1, 2, 3, 4
Op. 68 Symphony No. 6 in F major 1808 1809 sym6 full: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Op. 92 Symphony No. 7 in A major 1811-1812 1816 sym7 full: 1, 2, 3, 4
Op. 93 Symphony No. 8 in F major 1812 1817 sym8 full: 1, 2, 3, 4
Op. 125   Symphony No. 9 in D minor 1822-1824 1826 sym9 full: 1, 2, 3, 4

When selecting the "data" link, note that the "E" button should automatically generate a PDF (a useful capability for those who wish to re-edit the data before printing). This facility is still in course of development.

1.1.3 Other Downloadable Printed Editions

The first collected edition of the nine symphonies was published in Leipzig by Breitkopf & Härtel between 1862 and 1865. These are downloadable from the Munich Digitalization Center at the links indicated below:

    No. 1     [4]
    No. 2     [5]
    No. 3     [6]
    No. 4     [7]
    No. 5     [8]
    No. 6     [9]
    No. 7     [10]
    No. 8     [11]
    No. 9     [12]

1.2 Concertos

Although Beethoven’s concertos were largely composed within a single decade, several are hallmarks of the repertory. Celebrated for their balance of many musical factors in intricate ways and for the uniqueness of each work, they have been popular from Beethoven’s own time (during which he usually appeared in the first performance) to our own. Concentrated though the period of their composition may be, the piano was beginning to become a more robust instrument than its parent, the fortepiano. It was increasingly capable of a dramatic extensions to dynamic contrast and pitch registers. Beethoven exploited these capabilities in both his concertos and his piano sonatas.

2 Chamber Repertory

2.1 String Quartets and Quintets

Beethoven's string quartets have been perennially popular from his time to our own. They fall into four groups. The early quartets (Op. 18) give distinct evidence of the composer's promise and already show his originality. The "Razumovsky" quartets Op. 59 (nicknamed for their dedicatee) come from one of Beethoven's most fertile and productive periods. Each is a classic in its own right. Collectively they show enormous strides in Beethoven's development and imagination. Opp. 74 and 95 continue in the same direction.

What is surprising is that Beethoven composed so few quartets between 1806 and 1825. He was of course busy composing many other works during the first part of that period. Chamber music was usually written to fulfill a specific commission, and in Beethoven's time typically written to order. The political vicissitudes of Austria, particularly in its battles with Napoleonic France, were periodically inhibiting. Beethoven's personal battle with his progressive hearing difficulties is usually considered the likely explanation for many otherwise inexplicable behaviors.

 Opus  Title  Key  Nickname  Date CCARH score
B&H score
digital scores
Op. 18/1    String Quartet No. 1 F  Major 1798-1800     full [13] 01 02 03 04
Op. 18/2 String Quartet No. 2 G Major 1798–1800 full [14] 01 02 03 04
Op. 18/3 String Quartet No. 3 D Major 1798–1800 full [15] 01 02 03 04
Op. 18/4 String Quartet No. 4 C Minor 1798–1800 full [16] 01 02 03 04
Op. 18/5 String Quartet No. 5 A Major 1798–1800 full [17] 01 02 03 04
Op. 18/6 String Quartet No. 6 B Major 1798–1800  full [18] 01 02 03 04 05
Op. 59/1 String Quartet No. 7 F Major "Razumovsky" 1805–6 full [19] 01 02 03 04
Op. 59/2 String Quartet No. 8 E Minor "Razumovsky" 1805–6 full [20] 01 02 03 04
Op. 59/3 String Quartet No. 9 C Major "Razumovsky" 1805–6 full [21] 01 02 03 04
Op. 74 String Quartet No. 10 E Major "The Harp" 1809 full [22] 01 02 03 04
Op. 95 String Quartet No. 11 F Minor 1816 full [23] 01 02 03 04
Op. 127   String Quartet No. 12 E Major 1825 full [24] 01 02 03 04
Op. 130 String Quartet No. 13 B Major 1825–27 full [25] 01 02 03 04 05 06
Op. 131 String Quartet No. 14 C Minor 1825–27 full [26] 01 02 03 04 05 06 07
Op. 132 String Quartet No. 15 A  Minor 1825 full [27] 01 02 03 04 05
Op. 133 Grosse Fuge [No. 13b] B Major 1825–27 full [28] 01
Op. 135 String Quartet No. 16 F Major 1826–27 full [29] 01 02 03 04a 04

Audio examples from each movement of the three Op. 59 quartets are provided by the Digital Archive of the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, the city of Beethoven's birth.[30]

2.1.1 Arrangements

Beethoven was a frequent arranger of his own music. Apparently there was more demand for quartets than there were quartets being produced. In 1802 Beethoven arranged his piano sonata Op. 14, No. 1 as a string quartet in F Major for Baroness Josefine von Braun. A third-party arrangement of the piano trio Op. 1, No. 3 (corrected by Beethoven) appeared in Vienna and London in 1819.

2.1.2 Patronage

The quartets enjoyed the support of three highly discriminating patrons--Prince Lobkowitz for Opp. 18 and 74; Count Razumovsky for Op. 59, and Archduke Rudolf for the Grosse Fuge Op. 133. Remaining patrons were less well known: Zmeskall von Domanovecz (Op. 95), Prince Nikolay Golitsin (Opp. 127, 130, 132), Baron Joseph von Stutterheim (Op. 131), and Johann Wolfmayer (Op. 135).

2.1.3 Editions of and Source Materials for Beethoven's Quartets

Like Beethoven's symphonies, Beethoven's string quartets were published between 1862 and 1865 by Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig. The rightmost column in the table above gives links to the digitized version of these prints.

A copyist's score (c. 1816) of the seven quartets dedicated to Count Lobkowitz is held by the Beethoven Center in San Jose [31].

2.1.4 String Quintets

Beethoven composed only two string quintets--Op. 29 in C Major (1802) and a posthumous work (also in C Major) that was published in Vienna in 1838. The latter survives only tangentially in a piano transcription.