10 of the best Beethoven quotes

A selection of some of the wittiest and most profound statements the great composer made in his lifetime

Published: March 6, 2020 at 10:00 am

‘Muss es sein? Es muss sein’ (Must it be? It must be)

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The epigraph on the String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135

‘I shall seize fate by the throat; it shall certainly never wholly overcome me’

Letter to Franz Wegeler, 16 November 1801

‘[JS Bach is] the immortal god of harmony’

Letter to the publishers Breitkopf und Härtel, 22 April 1801

‘A great poet is the most precious jewel of a nation’

Beethoven speaking to Goethe in 1812

‘Anyone who tells a lie has not a pure heart, and cannot make a good soup’

Reported by music writer Ludwig Nohl in Beethoven Depicted by his Contemporaries, 1880

‘I shall hear in heaven’

Attributed last words, although now accepted as apocryphal

‘I like honesty and sincerity, and I maintain that an artist should not be shabbily treated’

Letter to CF Peters, 5 June 1822

‘Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy’

Reported in a letter from Bettina von Arnim to Goethe, 28 May 1810

‘There are many princes and noblemen. There is only one Beethoven’

A note left behind for Prince Lichnowsky at his estate in Grätz, 1806

‘Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est’ (Applaud, my friends, the comedy is over)

Alternative and equally spurious final words

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Read reviews of the latest Beethoven recordings here

Authors

Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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