Ludwig van Beethoven

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A portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

Ludwig van Beethoven (baptized 1770-12-17, died 1827-03-26) was a German composer who lived predominantly in Vienna, Austria. He was a major musical figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras. Beethoven is widely regarded as one of history's greatest composers.


  • I want to seize fate by the throat.
  • There ought to be but one large art warehouse in the world, to which the artist could carry his art-works, and from which he could carry away whatever he needed. As it is, one must be half a tradesman.
    • Conversations (January 1801)
  • The world is a king, and like a king, desires flattery in return for favor; but true art is selfish and perverse — it will not submit to the mold of flattery.
    • Conversations (March 1879)
  • Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est. (Applaud, my friends, the comedy is over.)
    • Said on his deathbed, 1827
  • Ich werde im Himmel hören! (I will hear in heaven!)
    • Said on his deathbed, 1827, as cited from the book Last Words.
  • The day-to-day exhausted me!
    • to Karl von Baden, August 23, 1823
  • Muss es sein? Es muss sein.
    • Must it be? It must be.
    • Epigraph to string quartet in F Major, Opus 135.

About Beethoven

  • Another equally true saying of Schumann is that, compared with Beethoven, Schubert is as a woman to a man. For it must be confessed that one's attitudes towards him is almost always that of sympathy, attraction, and love, rarely that of embarrassment or fear. Here and there only, as in the Rosamund B minor Entr'acte, or the Finale of the 10th symphony, does he compel his listeners with an irrestistible power; and yet how different is this compulsion from the strong, fierce, merciless coercion, with which Beethoven forces you along, and bows and bends you to his will.
    • Sir George Grove in his Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn (London:Macmillan, 1951), p. 238.
  • When his friends, says Czerny, speak to him of his youthful renown, he replies: "Ah, nonsense! I have never thought of writing for renown and glory. What I have in my heart must out; that is why I write."
  • You are going to Vienna in fulfillment of your long-frustrated wishes. The Genius of Mozart is mourning and weeping over the death of her pupil. She has found a refuge but no occupation with the inexhaustible Haydn; through him she wishes to form a union with another. With the help of assiduous labor you shall receive Mozart's spirit from Haydn's hands.
  • Everything will pass, and the world will perish but the Ninth Symphony will remain.
  • A colossus beyond the grasp of most mortals, with his totally uncompromising power, his unsensual and uningratiating way with music as with people.


  • Anyone who understands my music will never be unhappy again.
  • My heart is full of many things...there are moments when I feel that speech is nothing after all.
  • Anyone who tells a lie has not a pure heart, and cannot make a good soup.
  • Beethoven can write music, thank God, but he can do nothing else on earth.
  • Do you think I worry about your lousy fiddle when the spirit moves me?
    • In response to a complaint about one of his string quartets
  • I can't think about your miserable violin when I am speaking to my God!
    • Reply to a violinist
  • Music is........ a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.
  • Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.
  • Music should strike fire from the heart of man, and bring tears from the eyes of woman.
  • Never shall I forget the time I spent with you. Please continue to be my friend, as you will always find me yours.
  • Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors.
  • Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.
  • Recommend virtue to your children; it alone, not money, can make them happy. I speak from experience.
  • The barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, "Thus far and no farther."
  • There lies somehing revolutionary in the music.
    • Franz I on Beethoven's music.
  • This [pointing to his head] and this [pointing to his heart] is my nobility.
  • Thus Fate knocks the door.
    • Referring to the four-note motif heard at the beginning of his Fifth Symphony, according to his biographer Anton Schindler
  • To sing a wrong note is insignificant, but to sing without passion is unforgivable.
  • What you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and always will be thousands of princes, but there is only one Beethoven.
    • Response when a prince (often thought to be Prince Lichnowski, his patron) teased that he did not play his music for him.
  • My music is music about music.
  • We mortals with immortal minds are only born for sufferings and joys, and one could almost say that the most excellent receive joy through sufferings.

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