Open main menu
List of compositions by Ludwig van Beethoven
The compositions of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) consist of 722 works written over forty-five years, from his earliest work in 1782 (variations for piano on a march by Ernst Christoph Dressler) when he was only twelve years old and still in Bonn, till his last work just before his death in Vienna in 1827. Beethoven composed in all the main genres of classical music, including symphonies, concertos, string quartets, piano sonatas and one opera. His works range from requiring a solo performer to needing a large orchestra and chorus to perform.
Beethoven straddled both the classical and romantic periods, working in genres associated with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his teacher Joseph Haydn such as the piano concerto, string quartet and symphony, while on the other hand providing a precursor to Romantic composers such as Hector Berliozand Franz Liszt with programmatic works such as his Pastoral Symphonyand Piano Sonata “Les Adieux“. Beethoven’s work is typically divided into three periods. The “Early” period where Beethoven composed in the “Viennese” style. The “Middle” or “Heroic” period where his work is characterised by struggle and heroism, such as in the EroicaSymphony, the Appassionata Sonataand in his sole opera Fidelio. Beethoven’s “Late” period is marked by intense, personal expression and an emotional and intellectual profundity. Although his output dropped drastically in his later years this period saw the composition of masterpieces such as the Late Quartets, the Final Five Piano Sonatas, the Diabelli Variations, the Missa Solemnis and his Ninth Symphony.
Beethoven’s works are classified by both genre and various numbering systems. The most well known numbering system for Beethoven’s works is that by opus number, assigned by Beethoven’s publishers during his lifetime. Only 172 of Beethoven’s works have opus numbers, divided among 138 opus numbers. Many works that were unpublished or else published without opus numbers have been assigned either “WoO” (Werke ohne Opuszahl—works without opus number), Hess or Biamonti numbers. For example, the short piano piece “Für Elise“, is more fully known as the “Bagatelle in A minor, WoO 59 (‘Für Elise’)”. Some works are also commonly referred to by their nicknames, such as the Kreutzer Violin Sonata, or the ArchdukePiano Trio.
As well as these numbering systems, works are also often identified by their number within their genre. For example, the 14th string quartet, published as Opus 131, may be referenced either as “String Quartet No. 14” or “the Opus 131 String Quartet“. The listings include all of these relevant identifiers. While other catalogues of Beethoven’s worksexist, the numbers here represent the most commonly used.
List of works by genre
Beethoven’s works are published in several editions, the first of these was Ludwig van Beethovens Werke: Vollständige kritisch durchgesehene überall berechtigte Ausgabe published between 1862 and 1865 with a supplemental volume in 1888 by Breitkopf & Härtel, commonly known as the “Beethoven Gesamtausgabe” [GA]. While this was a landmark achievement at the time, the limitations of this edition soon became apparent. Between 1959 and 1971 Willy Hess prepared a supplemental edition, Beethoven: Sämtliche Werke: Supplemente zur Gesamtausgabe, [HS] containing works that were not in the Gesamtausgabe.
Since 1961 the Beethoven Archive has been publishing a new scholarly–critical Complete Edition of Beethoven’s works, Beethoven: Werke: neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke[NA]. However, only 42 of the projected 56 volumes have been published so far. As this edition has not been published in full there are works without an NA designation.
Legend for publications – p: parts s: full score vs: vocal score
Beethoven wrote nine symphonies, nine concertos, and a variety of other orchestral music, ranging from overtures and incidental music for theatrical productions to other miscellaneous “occasional” works, written for a particular occasion. Of the concertos, seven are widely known (one violin concerto, five piano concertos, and one triple concerto for violin, piano, and cello); the other two are an early piano concerto (WoO 4) and an arrangement of the Violin Concerto for piano and orchestra (Opus 61a).
Beethoven is believed to have intended to write a Tenth Symphony in the last year of his life; a performing version of possible sketches was assembled by Barry Cooper.