Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica)

“Before Beethoven music was written for the immediate: with Beethoven, you start writing music for eternity.” – Albert Einstein 


Enjoy one of my very favourite symphonies – Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55 (Eroica). Great story. The composer was an admirer of the ideals of the French Revolution, embodied in Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte. Naturally, Beethoven wrote and dedicated this symphony in honour of the French leader. He titled it “Bonaparte.”  


However, Beethoven was infuriated when he learnt that Napoleon had declared himself Emperor in May 1804. The composer is said to have erased Napoleon’s name from the title page “with such force that he tore the paper and broke the pencil.” 


Napoleon is then reported to have said of Napoleon: “Now alone… he will obey his ambition, rise higher than the others, become a tyrant!”  At the time of its publication in 1806, Beethoven titled the symphony “Eroica symphony – compost per festeggiare il sovvenire d’ un grand’ uomo” (“Heroic Symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”)Beethoven did not identify the great man, but one can easily guess. 


The story of Beethoven, Napoleon and this symphony has always reminded me of my own disappointment with rulers for whom I had once had admiration during our shared hope for freedom, democracy, and justice, only to be deeply disappointed by their unchecked ambition and embrace of tyranny.  


Enjoy Bruno Walter’s masterly presentation of the Eroica Symphony and reflect on your own great hero turned tyrant. 




Recent Posts

Popular Posts