Sympony No.3 in E-flat Major "Eroica", Op.55

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN began writing his Third Symphony at the beginning of October 1802 in Heiligenstadt, a small township near Vienna, shortly before depositing his famous Heiligenstadt Testament from 10 October 1802, reflecting his despondency from his incipient deafness, wherein he wrote: “… a little more of that and I would have ended my life – it was only my art that held me back.”
Beethoven left Vienna for a while on the advice of his physician, Johann Adam Schmidt, who in the spring of 1802 recommended the 32-year-old composer settle in a quiet place in order to spare his hearing. Beethoven rented a small country house in Heiligenstadt.
In a letter to his friends he wrote: “I only live in my music, and I have scarcely begun one thing when I start on another. […] I am often engaged on three or four things at the same time.”
In the summer of 1802, in Heiligenstadt, Beethoven produced piano drafts, violin sonatas, completed his Second Symphony.
“I am only partially satisfied with my recent works”, Beethoven wrote, “Today, I’m setting out on a new path.”
His first two symphonies apparently followed the model of Haydn’s symphonies, while the new path is represented by the Third Symphony. It is Beethoven’s first masterpiece and marks the end of a period of searching of an idiom and expressiveness of his own.
In his study Music in Western Civilization, Hungarian-American musicologist Paul Henry Lang describes the symphony in the following manner: “One of the incomprehensible deeds in arts and letters, the greatest single step made by an individual composer in the history of the symphony and in the history of music generally.”
The initial dedication of the symphony was made to Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven’s enthusiasm for the French Revolution dates back to his studies at the Bonn University in 1789. In 1798, the incumbent French ambassador to Vienna, General Jean Bernadot, engaged Beethoven in writing a music work to glorify the “hero of the century” – Napoleon. Six years later Beethoven made a dedication of his Third Symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of the French Republic, which read as follows: “Sinfonia grande intitulata [‘entitled’ or ‘written to’] Buonaparte”.
At the turn of the century Beethoven was still under the influence of the revolutionary spirit of his time, of his prejudice towards Napoleon and the French heroic style in music, which resulted, besides the Eroica symphony, in such works as the Aurora and Apassionata keyboard sonatas, and the Kreuzer violin sonata.
But when Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor, Beethoven voiced his disappointment: “Is he then, too, nothing more than an ordinary human being! Now he, too, will trample on all the rights of man… [and] become a tyrant!”
In 1806, the score was published under the Italian title Sinfonia Eroica … composta per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grande Uomo (“Heroic Symphony, Composed to celebrate the memory of a great man”). This great man was no longer Napoleon, but the imaginary hero embodying Beethove’s ideas.
However, Beethoven retained certain sympathies for Bonaparte, and after learning of his death, in one of his letters to Schindler from 1821, recalled the music he had written in his honour seventeen years earlier.
Each movement of the symphony is remarkable in terms of dramatic structure, harmony, form organization, thematic material, dimensions and complexity within perfect architectonics. The first movement is cast in sonata form, which, in comparison with its predecessors, is treated in a far freer and more flexible manner. The Funeral march as a second movement is an unparalleled specimen of its genre. The third movement – a scherzo – has a very important function in the cycle, as a balancing component, recalling the energy accumulated in the first movement. The finale is a brilliant variation form that has become a textbook example of variations on two themes (or double variations).
Beethoven had used this material in two of his earlier works: the ballet setting The Creatures of Prometheus and the Piano Variations opus 35.

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