The opening essay by James Webster, "Beethoven in Vienna, 1792-1802: An 'Early' Period?", evaluates the critical tradition of dividing Beethoven’s career into three periods—early, middle, and late—and shows both their artificiality and their implications, including a tendency to undervalue early works. Jürgen May’s essay "Beethoven and Prince Karl Lichnowsky," considers Beethoven’s relations with one of the first of his most important patrons.
In "Beethoven before 1800: The Mozart Legacy," Lewis Lockwood examines Beethoven’s sketchbooks to describe how Beethoven composed with and against models from Mozart. Glenn Stanley's essay, "The 'wirklich gantz neue Mainer' and the Path to It: Beethoven's Variations for Piano, 1783-1802," surveys Beethoven’s sets of piano variations written in his first decade in Vienna and argues the importance of the variations in Beethoven's progress as a composer.
In 'Pathos and the Pathétique," Elaine R. Sisman provides a historical and aesthetic analysis of one of Beethoven’s most popular piano sonatas. The composition of one of Beethoven's most popular violin sonatas, the "Spring" sonata is traced in the sketchbooks by Carl Schachter in "The Sketches of the Sonata for Piano and Violin, Op. 24."
Nicholas Marston's "Stylistic Advance, Strategic Retreat: Beethoven's Sketches for the Finale," also pays precise attention to Beethoven's sketches to discover how the composition of the Second Symphony illuminates Beethoven's work on an "underlying idea." In "Hybrid Themes: Toward a Refinement in the Classification of Classical Theme Types," William E. Caplin defines "hybrid themes" and shows their variety in Beethoven’s early compositions.
William Kinderman concludes the volume with a review article on Klaus Kropfinger’s Wagner and Beethoven and its study of the "battle for Beethoven" that racked nineteenth-century European music.