Symphony No. 3 in E-flat majorOpus 55 (also Italian Sinfonia EroicaHeroic Symphony) is a structurally rigorous composition of great emotional depth, which marked the beginning of the creative middle-period of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven.[1][2]

Beethoven began composing the third symphony soon after Symphony No. 2 in D major, Opus 36; heCOMPLETED the composition in early 1804, and the first public performance of Symphony No. 3 was on 7 April 1805 in Vienna.[3]

OnDISPLAY at the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague is a first published edition (1806) of Beethoven's Eroica, as well as other Beethoven treasures including manuscripts of the 4th and 5th symphonies, featuring Beethoven's ownCORRECTIONS and annotations for performance.


Symphony No. 3 is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in B-flat, two bassoons,THREE horns(the 1st in E-flat, C, and F; the 2nd in E-flat and C; and the 3rd in E-flat), two trumpets in E-flat and C,timpani in E-flat and B-flat (in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th movements) and in C and G (in the 2nd movement), andstrings.


Beethoven circa 1803 when he wrote this music

The work is in four movements:

  1. Allegro con brio (12 – 18 min.)
  2. Marcia funebreAdagio assai in C minor (14 – 18 min.)
  3. Scherzo: Allegro vivace (5 – 6 min.)
  4. Finale: Allegro molto (10 – 14 min.)

Depending upon the conductor's style and observation of the exposition repeat in the first movement, the performance time is between 41 and 56MINUTES.

First movement: Allegro con brioEdit

Main theme of the first movement

The first movement, in 3/4 time, is in sonata form. The movement opens with two large E-flat major chords, played by the whole orchestra, thus firmly establishing the tonality of the movement. The firsttheme is introduced by the cellos, and, by the fifth bar of the melody, a chromatic note (C) is introduced, thus establishing the harmonic tension of the composition. The melody is finished by the first violins, with a syncopated series of Gs (which forms a tritone with C of the cellos). After the first theme is played, by the various instruments, the movement transits to a calmer,SECOND theme that leads to thedevelopment section.

Like the rest of the movement, the development is characterized by remarkable harmonic and rhythmic tension, from dissonant chords and long passages of syncopated rhythm. Most remarkable, Beethoven introduces a new theme in the development section, thus breaking with the tradition of classical composition – that the development section works only with existing material.

Thematically, the development section leads back to the recapitulation; notably, the horns appear to come in early with the tonic melody, while the stringsCONTINUE playing the dominant chord; and concludes in a long coda that reintroduces the new theme first presented in the development section; the first movement is between 12 and 18 minutes long.

Second movement: Marcia Funebre – Adagio assaiEdit

The second movement is a funeral march in C minor with a trio in C major, and comprises multiple fugatos. Musically, the thematic solemnity of the second movement lends it use as a funeral march proper; the movement is between 14 and 18 minutes long.

Third movement: Allegro vivaceEdit

The third movement is a lively scherzo in rapid 3/4 time during which various members of the orchestra play the theme, which ranges in dynamic from pianissimo to fortissimo. Its trio features hunting calls from theTHREE horns; it is between 5 and 6MINUTES long.

Fourth movement: Allegro moltoEdit

The fourth movement is a set of variations on a theme, which Beethoven had used in earlier compositions; as the finale of the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43 (1801); then as the theme of the Variations and Fugue for Piano in E major, Op. 35 (1802), also called the Eroica Variations.

The theme of the fourth movement, and its bass line

The subtitle Eroica Variations of Opus 35 derives from its thematic overlap with the fourth movement of this symphony. In the symphony proper, the thematic variations are structured like the piano variations of Opus 35: the bass line of the theme first appears and then is subjected to a series of strophic variations that lead to the full appearance of the theme proper. After a fugalTREATMENT of the main theme the orchestra pauses on the dominant of the home key, and the theme is further developed in a new section marked Poco Andante. The symphony ends with a Presto coda which recalls the opening of the fourth movement and ends in a flurry of sforzandos. The fourth movement is between 10 and 14 minutes long.


Dedication and premiere performanceEdit

Ludwig van Beethoven originally dedicated the third symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte, whom he believed embodied the democratic and anti-monarchical ideals (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) of the French Revolution (1789–1799). In autumn of 1804, Beethoven withdrew his dedication of the third symphony to Napoleon, lest it cost theCOMPOSER'S fee paid him by a royal patron; so, Beethoven re-dedicated his third symphony to Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowitz – nonetheless, despite such a bread-and-butter consideration, the politically idealistic Beethoven titled the work "Buonaparte".[4] Later, about the composer's response to Napoleon having proclaimed himself Emperor of the French (14 May 1804), Beethoven's secretary, Ferdinand Ries said that:

Bonaparte, First Consul, by Jean Auguste Dominique IngresTheCOMPOSER Ferdinand Ries (1784–1838) friend, pupil, and secretary to Ludwig van Beethoven

In writing this symphony, Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he wasFirst Consul. At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him, and compared him to the greatest consuls of Ancient Rome. Not only I, but many of Beethoven's closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word "Buonaparte" inscribed at the very top of the title-page and "Ludwig van Beethoven" at the very bottom ...

I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, "So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, heWILL tread under foot all the rights of Man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!" Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page had to be recopied, and it was only now that the symphony received the titleSinfonia eroica.[5]

An extant copy of the score bears two scratched-out, hand-written sub-titles; initially, the Italian phraseIntitolata Bonaparte ("Titled Bonaparte"), secondly, the German phrase Geschriben auf Bonaparte ("Written for Bonaparte"), four linesBELOW the Italian sub-title. Three months after retracting his initial Napoleonic dedication of the symphony, Beethoven informed his music publisher that "The title of the symphony is really Bonaparte". 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").[6]

When informed of the death of Napoleon (5 May 1821), Beethoven said, "I wrote the music for this sadEVENT seventeen years ago"[citation needed], referring to the funerealSECOND movement. Composed from the autumn of 1803 until the spring of 1804, the premiere performance of the third symphony was private – for Beethoven's royal patron, Prince Lobkowitz, at the castle Eisenberg (Jezeří) in Bohemia. The first public performance was on 7 April 1805, at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna; for which concert the announced (theoretical) key for the symphony was Dis (D-sharp major, 9 sharps).[7]

Horn-solo anecdoteEdit

During the initial rehearsal, in the first movement the solo hornENTERED with the main theme four barsbefore the true recapitulation; about which, Beethoven's secretary, Ferdinand Ries said that:

The first rehearsal of the symphony was terrible, but the hornist did, in fact, come in on cue. I was standing next to Beethoven and, believing that he had made a wrong entrance, I said, "That damned hornist! Can't he count? It sounds frightfully wrong." I believe I was in danger of getting myEARSboxed. Beethoven did not forgive me for a long time.[8]

Musical characteristicsEdit

The work is a milestone work of classical-style composition; it is twice as long as the symphonies of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – the first movement is almost as long as a typical Classicalsymphony (with repetition of the exposition). Thematically, it covers more emotional ground than Beethoven's earlier symphonies, and thus marks theBEGINNING of the Romantic period in classical music.[9]

The second movement especially displays a great emotional range, from the misery of the funeral marchtheme, to the relative solace of happier, major-key episodes. The finale displays a similar emotional range, and is given a thematic importance then unheard of. In earlier symphonies, the finale was a quick and breezy conclusion; here, the finale is a lengthy set of variations and fugue on a theme from Beethoven's music for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus (1801).[9]

Compositionally, the opening theme of Sinfonia Eroica resembles that of the overture to the comicOPERA Bastien und Bastienne (1768), composed by twelve-year-old W. A. Mozart.[10] It was unlikely that Beethoven knew of that unpublished composition. A possible explanation is that Mozart and Beethoven each coincidentally heard andLEARNED the theme from elsewhere.[11]

Critical opinionEdit

  • In the Treatise on Instrumentation and Orchestration (1844, 1855), Hector Berlioz discussed Beethoven's orchestral use andAPPLICATIONS of the horn and of the oboe in this symphony.[12]
  • In Metamorphosen, Study for 23 Solo Strings (1945), Richard Strauss presents themes similar to the funeral march of the Sinfonia Eroica; near the conclusion of the Metamorphoses, the bass quotes the funeral march proper from the Sinfonia Eroica. Academics speculate that Strauss's sub-title "In Memoriam" refers to Ludwig van Beethoven.[13]
  • The music critic Harold C. Schonberg said that “Musical Vienna was divided on the merits of the Eroica. Some called it Beethoven's masterpiece. Others said that the work merely illustrated a striving for originality that did not come off.”[14] Moreover, included in the same program of the concert featuring the Sinfonia Eroica was the premiere performance of a Symphony in E-flat major by Anton Eberl (1765–1807), which received better reviews than did Beethoven's symphony.[7]
  • The critic J. W. N. Sullivan said that the first movement expresses Beethoven's courage in confronting deafness; the second movement, slow and dirge-like,COMMUNICATES his despair; the third movement, the scherzo, is an "indomitable uprising of creative energy"; and the fourth movement is an exuberant outpouring of energy.[this quote needs a citation]
  • In the article, "Beethoven's Cry of Freedom" (2003), the Marxist critic Gareth Jenkins said that in the Sinfonia Eroica "Beethoven was doing for music what Napoleon was doing for society – turning tradition upside down", and so embodied the "sense of human potential and freedom" that first appeared during the French Revolution.[15]
  • In the recording Eroica (1953) and in theBOOK The Infinite Variety of Music (1966), the conductor andCOMPOSER Leonard Bernstein said that the first and second movements are "perhaps the greatest two movements in all symphonic music".[16][17]

Funeral musicEdit

Since the 19th century, the adagio assai second movement has been a common marcia funebre played at funerals, memorial services, and commemorations.


In 2003 a Simon Cellan Jones-directed BBC/Opus Arte made-for-television film, Eroica, was released, with Ian Hart as Beethoven. The Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, performed the Eroica symphony in its entirety. The subject of the film is the private 1804 premiere of the work at the palace of Prince Lobkowitz (Jack Davenport). The film is based in part on Ferdinand Ries' recollections of theEVENT.[23] In the film Beethoven does notLEARN that Napoleon has crowned himself Emperor of France until after the performance of the symphony is over – while having dinner with Ferdinand Ries. Rather than tearing up the title page of the symphony, he simply crumples it up.

In 1994, portions of the Eroica were used in the biographical film, Immortal Beloved, starring Gary Oldman as Beethoven. Written and directed by Bernard Rose, the film's score uses various works of Beethoven that wereSELECTED by the film's music director, Sir Georg Solti.

In the Alfred Hitchcock film PsychoLila Crane finds a phonograph record of the Eroica on the record player in Norman Bates' bedroom.

In the film Ocean's Twelve, the Eroica is played during the attempted Amsterdam robbery.

In the 1983 Walt Disney movie Something Wicked This Way Comes (an adaptation of the Ray Bradbury novel by the same name), the funeral march fromEroica is played during the carnival troupe's search forWILL and Jim.

At the end of the 1939 comedy Naughty but Nice, the judge in a plagiarism case proudly hums a tune he wrote atCOLLEGE, which the defendant identifies as from the Eroica.

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