Ludwig van Beethoven really needs no introduction. As one of the most renowned and admired composers in the history of Western music, his works remain a staple of classical music performances around the world. The German pianist and composer straddled both the Classical and Romantic periods, leaving a legacy of over 700 works.
To introduce you to his impressive repertoire, we’ve picked five Beethoven piano pieces that showcase the brilliance of one of the world’s greatest composers. Feeling inspired to play them yourself? You can find each piece in the flowkey app, with arrangements for everyone from beginners to advanced players.
1. Ode to Joy
“Ode to Joy” is the fourth and final movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. Regarded by many as the composer’s greatest work, it’s also the first symphony to ever combine vocal and instrumental music. First performed in Vienna in 1824, Beethoven’s epic composition has become a symbol of hope, unity, and freedom. Even though it was originally written for a full orchestra, this piece still sounds satisfyingly grand on solo piano. The melody is simple, instantly recognizable, and makes you feel happy and hopeful as you play along.
2. Pathétique II. Adagio - Sonata No. 8 in C minor
While many of Beethoven’s works have earned unofficial nicknames, the composer likely chose the title “Pathétique” himself. The name perfectly captures the expressive, sorrowful mood of this sonata. A visionary work, this emotionally charged composition broke away from Classical conventions and marked the beginning of the shift towards the Romantic period. Full of rich rhythms and dynamic contrasts, the “Pathétique” is a fantastic piece for exploring the piano’s legendary versatility. Once you’ve perfected the notes, explore the harmonies, and really lose yourself in the emotions of the sonata.
3. Für Elise
One of Beethoven’s best-known piano pieces, “Für Elise” is also a bit of an enigma. Its nickname translates to “For Elise,” but no one knows for sure who Elise was. It’s also unclear if Beethoven even wrote the piece for an Elise at all. One theory suggests that he actually dedicated it to a woman called Therese Malfatti.
The mystery remains unsolved, but one thing is certain: “Für Elise” is a lovely little piece. Equal parts hopeful and haunting, it’s built on a beautiful yet relatively simple melody - making it a piece that players of all abilities can enjoy learning.
4. Moonlight Sonata
The “Moonlight Sonata” is a prime example of Beethoven’s refusal to stick to the status quo. Instead of following the expected fast-slow-fast pattern of sonatas at the time, the composer chose to open with a slow set of arpeggios and build up to faster, more dramatic music in the final two movements. In turning the traditional form of the sonata on its head, Beethoven takes us on a journey from sorrow to happiness to defiance. It makes this piece incredibly exciting to play and shows exactly why Beethoven was a musical master of emotions.
5. Symphony No. 5 in C Minor
Da-da-da-DA! The iconic four-note opening of Beethoven’s famous Fifth Symphony always steals the show. And the rest of the piece definitely puts your playing skills to the test! If you’re up for the challenge, this piece will reward you with a dark, dramatic melody that has enough twists and turns to impress any audience.
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