Like the great French revolutionaries, Beethoven was convinced that he was writing for posterity. When (as frequently happened) musicians complained that they could not play his music because it was too difficult, he used to answer: "Don't worry, this is music for the future."

If any composer deserves the name of revolutionary it is Beethoven. He carried through what was probably the greatest single revolution in modern music and changed the way music was composed and listened to. This is music that does not calm, but shocks and disturbs. Alan Woods describes how the world into which Beethoven was born was a world in turmoil, a world in transition, a world of wars, revolution and counter-revolution: a world like our own world.