A break in history
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55 "Eroica" is one of the most important works in the history of music. It was composed in 1803, but its premiere was not until two years later, in 1805, in Vienna. This symphony (in strictly musical terms) is almost as well known as the history of its name, and it highlights both Beethoven's genius and his deep convictions.
Daniel Barenboim, an undisputed reference in Beethoven's repertoire, said of the “Eroica”: "I doubt very much that, in all the history of art, there has been such a significant leap forward in such a short time". “Eroica” is a musical equivalent to the arrival to the moon, a milestone that not only affects the environment in which it was conceived, but also other human manifestations. This symphony captures, and somehow initiates, the romantic aesthetic and tradition of the great symphonies. The dimensions (in temporal and sound terms) plus the expressive freedoms that Beethoven took, completely without precedent, make this work a true foundational pillar of the Romantic period.
From the impetuous development of the first movement, through the funeral march of the second and the vigorous scherzo of the third, to the final movement that functions as a corollary to the monumental work, Beethoven manages to write a true declaration of aesthetic and ideological principles. In the composer's life, this work was a strong symbol of overcoming, since he may have been going through one of the darkest moments of his life. This situation can be seen in his so-called "Heiligenstadt Testament", a letter (never sent) that he wrote to his brothers at the end of 1802 openly declaring his desire to put an end to his life, which had been hit by the advance of deafness among other tragedies.
The story goes that Beethoven originally thought of dedicating Symphony No. 3 to Napoleon Bonaparte, with whom he shared his ideals and struggle against tyranny. Ferdinand Ries (a student of Beethoven at the time) wrote that when Bonaparte proclaimed himself emperor, the composer tore up the sheet of paper with the dedication. Finally, the phrase that opens the score is "Heroic Symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man".
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