Saturday, April 7, 2018

April 7, 1805: Beethoven premieres his 3rd symphony

Last updated August 28, 2018.

Symphony No. 3 in E♭ major, Op. 55, “Sinfonia Eroica”

Ludwig van Beethoven (composer)

Composed: 1802-1804

First Performed: April 7, 1805

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Genre: classical > symphony


  1. Allegro con brio
  2. Marcia funebre. Adagio assai
  3. Scherzo. Allegro vivace
  4. Finale. Allegro molto

Average Duration: 48:47


Beethoven’s 3rd symphony, comprised of four movements, is one of his most celebrated works marking the onset of his creative middle-period. WK It is “grounded in the Classical symphonic tradition while also stretching boundaries of form, length, harmony, and perceived emotional and possibly cultural content. It has therefore widely been considered an important landmark in the transition between the Classical period and the Romantic era.” WK

The symphony, “despite everything written to the contrary,” RD “was never a ‘portrait’ of Napoleon Bonaparte,” RD although Beethoven initially dedicated it to him, believing he “embodied the democratic and anti-monarchical ideals of the French Revolution.” WK He was enraged, however, when Napoleon crowned himself Emperor and, according to Beethoven’s pupil, Ferdinand Ries, “went to the table, took hold of the title page, tore it in two, and threw it on the floor.” RD

What Beethoven didn’t tell Ries, however, is that Prince Lobkowitz had offered him “a handsome fee in exchange for the dedication,” RD making it much easier to re-dedicate the work. It was introduced “privately in Vienna, chez Prince Lobkowitz, to whom it is dedicated. Beethoven also conducted the public premiere on April 7, 1805, in the Theater-an-der-Wien.” RD

“The sheer length of the Eroica's first movement was revolutionary – an opening movement of 691 measures, plus an exposition repeat of 151 measures.” RD Beethoven also used hunting music for surprise effect in the third movement and a racy finale which included “a fugue that detractors ever since have called a falling-off of inspiration. This kind of argument ignores, however, not only what preceded the Eroica historically -- Bach's Goldberg Variations for example -- but also Beethoven's own ennoblement of the form.” RD

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