Symphony no. 3, opus 55 “Eroica”

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Performed on period instruments

The genesis of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony Number 3 in E-Flat Major, the “Eroica”, has long been brought into connection with the composer’s early admiration for Napoleon. Indeed, Beethoven had initially intended to entitle the work “Bonaparte”, but he withdrew the dedication when the Corsican, as First Consul of a military-backed republic, crowned himself emperor on 2 December 1804. Nonetheless, Beethoven did complete the composition, which is influenced by both French Revolution music and Bachian polyphony, and the first movement is indeed heroic in character. As such, we may assume that Beethoven, while torn between cosmopolitan notions and Austrian patriotism, still held fast to the revolutionary ideals of “liberty, equality, fraternity”. At the same time, the second movement, a funeral march, shows that he equally wished to commemorate the victims of conflict and war, thus giving form to the dark side of the “heroic” story.

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