The music of Beethoven has left a profound impress on art. In speaking of his genius it is difficult to keep expression within the limits of good taste. For who has so passed into the very inner penetralia of his great art, and revealed to the world such heights and depths of beauty and power in sound?
Beethoven composed nine symphonies, which, by one voice, are ranked as the greatest ever written, reaching in the last, known as the “Choral,” the full perfection of his power and experience. Other musicians have composed symphonic works remarkable for varied excellences, but in Beethoven this form of writing seems to have attained its highest possibilities, and to have been illustrated by the greatest variety of effects, from the sublime to such as are simply beautiful and melodious. His hand swept the whole range of expression with unfaltering mastery. Some passages may seem obscure, some too elaborately wrought, some startling and abrupt, but on all is stamped the die of his great genius.
Beethoven’s compositions for the piano, the sonatas, are no less notable for range and power of expression, their adaptation to meet all the varied moods of passion and sentiment. Other pianoforte composers have given us more warm and vivid color, richer sensual effects of tone, more wild and bizarre combination, perhaps even greater sweetness in melody; but we look in vain elsewhere for the spiritual passion and poetry, the aspiration and longing, the lofty humanity, which make the Beethoven sonatas the suspiria de pro-fundis of the composer’s inner life. In addition to his symphonies and sonatas, he wrote the great opera of “Fidelio,” and in the field of oratorio asserted his equality with Handel and Haydn by composing “The Mount of Olives.” A great variety of chamber music, masses, and songs,