Beethoven: Symphony No.3 in E flat, Op.55, “Eroica”
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Paavo Jarvi, dir.
0:01 I. Allegro con brio
16:00 II. Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
28:52 III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace – Trio
35:26 IV. Finale: Allegro molto – Poco andante – Presto
From Wikipedia: “Ludwig van Beethoven‘s Symphony No. 3 in E flat major (Op. 55), also known as the Eroica (Italian for “heroic”), is a musical work marking the full arrival of the composer’s “middle-period,” a series of unprecedented large scale works of emotional depth and structural rigor.
The symphony is widely regarded as a mature expression of the classical style of the late eighteenth century that also exhibits defining features of the romantic style that would hold sway in the nineteenth century. The Third was begun immediately after the Second, completed in August 1804, and first performed 7 April 1805.
Dedication and premiere
Beethoven had originally conceived of dedicating the symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte. The biographer Maynard Solomon relates that Beethoven admired the ideals of the French Revolution, and viewed Napoleon as their embodiment. In the autumn the composer began to have second thoughts about that dedication. It would have deprived him of a fee that he would receive if he instead dedicated the symphony to Prince Franz Joseph Maximillian Lobkowitz. Nevertheless, he still gave the work the title of Bonaparte.
According to Beethoven’s pupil and assistant, Ferdinand Ries, when Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor of the French in May 1804, Beethoven became disgusted and went to the table where the completed score lay. He took hold of the title-page and tore it up in rage. This is the account of the scene as told by Ries:
||In writing this symphony Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he was First Consul. At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him and compared him to the greatest consuls of ancient Rome. Not only I, but many of Beethoven’s closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word “Buonaparte” inscribed at the very top of the title-page and “Ludwig van Beethoven” at the very bottom. …I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, “So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!” Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page had to be re-copied and it was only now that the symphony received the title “Sinfonia eroica.”
There exists also the copy of the score made by a copyist, where the
The Eroica Symphony Title Page, showing the erased dedication to Napoleon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
words Intitulata Bonaparte (‘dedicated to Bonaparte’) are scratched out, but four lines below that were later added in pencil the words Geschriben auf Bonaparte (‘written in honor of Bonaparte’). Further, in August 1804, merely three months after the legendary tearing-up scene, Beethoven wrote to his publisher that “The title of the symphony is really Bonaparte.” The final title that was applied to the work when it was first published in October, 1806, was Sinfonia Eroica…composta per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grand Uomo (“heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”). In addition, Schindler tells us that upon hearing of the Emperor’s death in Saint Helena in 1821, Beethoven proclaimed “I wrote the music for this sad event seventeen years ago” – referring to the Funeral March (second movement).
Beethoven wrote most of the symphony in late 1803 and completed it in early 1804. The symphony was premiered privately in summer 1804 in his patron Prince Lobkowitz‘s castle Eisenberg (Jezeri) in Bohemia. The first public performance was given in Vienna‘s Theater an der Wien on 7 April 1805 with the composer conducting. For that performance, the work’s key was announced as “Dis“, the German for D-sharp.
Musical characteristics and uniqueness
The work is a milestone in the history of the classical symphony for a number of reasons. The piece is about twice as long as symphonies by Haydn or Mozart—the first movement alone is almost as long as many Classical symphonies, if the exposition repeat is observed. The work covers more emotional ground than earlier works had, and is often cited as the beginning of the Romantic period in music. The second movement, in particular, displays a great range of emotion, from the misery of the main funeral march theme, to the relative solace of happier, major key episodes. The finale of the symphony shows a similar range, and is given an importance in the overall scheme which was virtually unheard of previously —whereas in earlier symphonies, the finale was a quick and breezy finishing off, here it is a lengthy set of variations and fugue on a theme Beethoven had originally written for his ballet music The Creatures of Prometheus.