Beethoven, Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, "Eroica" (1804)

Course Description
As a revolutionary composer living during a revolutionary time, Beethoven used music as a means of helping audiences divorce themselves from the past and take themselves into a new era. This presentation provides an analysis of Beethoven's Third Symphony and how that symphony changed music history.

Claudio Abbado conducting the Lucerne Festival Orchestra

  • First Movement – 0:00
  • Second Movement – 18:30
  • Third Movement – 36:30
  • Fourth Movement – 42:55
General Information
  • Beethoven completed his Third Symphony in early 1804. The first performance was held for a private audience at the castle of Prince Lobkowitz in August 1804. It was first performed in public on April 7, 1805.
  • The symphony was originally titled "Bonaparte" to honor Napoleon, a man Beethoven thought would lead Europe toward a more humane and egalitarian society. After Napoleon proclaimed himself emperor in May 1804, Beethoven went into a rage and erased the word Bonaparte from the score, replacing it with the word "Eroica," Italian for "Heroic." In changing the name of the symphony, Beethoven dismissed Napoleon as a "tyrant" who "will think himself superior to all men." In changing the name Beethoven also avoided jeopardizing the fee owed to him from a royal patron.
  • The Third Symphony marked a significant turning point in music history, liberating composers to create music as a form of self-expression and to expand the boundaries of what they could do with music. Beethoven's Third demonstrated to other composers how originality and individuality could become a significant element of creating new music.
  • The second movement of the Eroica Symphony has been played often at funerals and memorial services, including those for Felix Mendelssohn, Arturo Toscanini, the athletes killed at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Franklin Roosevelt, and John Kennedy.
Online Articles
The World's Greatest Symphony?
In September 2016, BBC Music Magazine published "The 20 Greatest Symphonies of All Time." The ranking came from a survey of 151 of the world's greatest conductors who were asked to rank their top three symphonies in any order. According to the world's top conductors, Beethoven's Third Symphony was the greatest of all time.

Recommended Books
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Recommended Recordings
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Beethoven's Third as Seen and Heard with a Graphical Score
As a special treat, I have embedded all four movements of Beethoven's Third performed by the Bezdin Ensemble with a terrific graphical score created by Stephen Malinowski and the Music Animation Machine. Enjoy!

First Movement

Second Movement

Third Movement

Fourth Movement