I have always found that there is unanimity in establishing that Beethoven has been the most important composer of all time. In the words of the Encyclopædia Britannica, for example, "The German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven is widely regarded as the greatest composer who ever lived".

Although it is indisputable that this genius is at the top of the ranking, it has never been entirely clear to me why this first place is understood to belong to him. (In fact, I have always been surprised that Bach is not in the first position).

With regard to his role as the creator of the basis of harmony, it seems that Bach would be ahead of Beethoven; in fact, Beethoven himself called him 'the original father of harmony'. As for his role in the transition to Romanticism, it is often said that he did it together with Schubert. Nor was Beethoven the first in terms of the number of compositions (it is Georg Philipp Telemann who is credited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific, having written over 3,000 compositions).

So what is it that generates such unanimity among experts when it comes to classifying Beethoven as the greatest composer of all time?

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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_the_Romantics seems to have some insight as to why - even a mere 75 years after he was born, a substantial number of European composers well-known today figured Beethoven was great enough to get a statue built of him even if they footed quite a lot of the bill, but they never reached a consensus as to why he was great.
    – Dekkadeci
    Aug 15 '20 at 12:56
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    cf. the recent discussion on "Music Theory's White Racial Frame," where author Phil Ewell says "Beethoven was undoubtedly an above-average composer and he deserves our attention. But to say he was anything more is to dismiss 99.9% of the world’s music written 200+ years ago, which would be unscholarly, and academically irresponsible."
    – Richard
    Aug 15 '20 at 15:41
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    @Richard There is much in that article which deserves rebuttal -- which Andrew Barnard and Matt have seen fit to do in the comments section.
    – Rosie F
    Aug 15 '20 at 18:36
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    Beethoven was an active innovator in the seminal period when the pianoforte was invented. Suddenly one performer could produce complex harmonies with dynamics. It absolutely transformed music. Beethoven even co-invented a piano with organ-ish pedals that played bass notes. There’s one in the Musical Instruments Museum in Paris. Anyway, many of his contributions to the evolution of string quartet composition, symphonies, and even the sonata form for major steps forward.
    – Howlium
    Aug 15 '20 at 21:39
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There's a valid argument that, standing on the shoulders of Bach and Mozart, Beethoven 'brought it all together' in the classical symphonic style in a way unsurpassed before or since.

You could make similar arguments for Rogers & Hammerstein, the Beatles, John Williams...

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