3rd symphony (Beethoven)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Title page of Eroica , copy corrected by Beethoven with the erased subtitle “intitolata Bonaparte”

Ludwig van Beethoven's 3rd Symphony in E flat major , op. 55, with the nickname “Eroica” (Heroic Symphony) was composed between 1802 and 1803. The work is now considered revolutionary and is one of the composer's most popular and most frequently performed orchestral works . The playing time is about 44 to 62 minutes, depending on the interpretation.

History of origin

Beethoven wrote down the first sketches in the summer of 1802 in the so-called “Wielhorsky sketchbook”, immediately after the sketches for the Eroica Variations op. 35. Both works are related in terms of content, because the finale of the symphony goes back to the counter-dance WoO 14 No. 7 , which Beethoven used again in his ballet music The Creatures of Prometheus and then as the theme of the Eroica Variations . Further work is documented in the “Eroica sketchbook”. It is unclear whether there was a real background for the creation of the 2nd movement, the funeral march . Rita Steblin suspects that he was a reaction to the death of the Bonn patron Archduke Maximilian Franzwho died on July 26, 1801 in Hetzendorf near Vienna at the age of only 44 years. Beethoven wanted to dedicate his 1st symphony to him, but this was thwarted by the early death of the patron . On October 22, 1803, Beethoven's pupil at the time, Ferdinand Ries, finally offered the 3rd symphony to the Bonn publisher Nikolaus Simrock for printing:

“He wants to sell you the symphony for 100 guilders. In his own words, it is the greatest work he has written so far. Beethoven played it for me the other day and I think heaven and earth must tremble when it is performed. He's very keen to dedicate the same Bonaparte, if not because Lobkowitz wants to have it for half a year and give 400 guilders, that's what it's called Bonaparte. "

The premiere took place on June 9, 1804 in a private setting in the Viennese palace of Prince Joseph Lobkowitz , who had acquired the sole right to perform for a few months. This is documented in the fee invoice for some orchestral musicians, in which it is expressly noted that a third horn was involved, as required only by the Eroica . Further performances followed on January 20, 1805 in the house of the banker Joseph Würth on Hohen Markt and on January 23, 1805 again in the Lobkowitz Palace. The first public performance took place on Palm Sunday , April 7, 1805, in the Theater an der Wien under Beethoven's own direction in a concert by the violinist friendFranz Clement instead.

The first edition (orchestral parts) appeared in October 1806 in the Vienna Art and Industry Comptoir, advertised in the Wiener Zeitung on October 19, 1806. It is entitled “Sinfonia eroica, composta per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grand'uomo” (Heroic Symphony composed to celebrate the memory of a great man.)

Possibly the subtitle was created shortly before the publication and refers to the death of Prince Louis Ferdinand , who fell on October 10th. Beethoven had dedicated his 3rd piano concerto to him, and the prince was also close friends with Prince Lobkowitz, to whom Beethoven in turn dedicated the Eroica . As Hieronymus Payer reported in 1843, Prince Lobkowitz had the Eroica performed at his castle in Raudnitz in October 1804 when Prince Louis Ferdinand visited him there for several days.

In the summer of 1817, the poet Christoph Kuffner asked the composer which of his symphonies he considered the most important. Kuffner thought it was the 5th symphony , but Beethoven replied: "The Eroica."

Instrumentation and sentence names

Orchestral line-up

2 flutes , 2 oboes , 2 clarinets , 2 bassoons , 3 horns , 2 trumpets , timpani , 1st violin , 2nd violin, viola , cello , double bass

Sentence names

  • 1st movement: Allegro con brio
  • 2nd movement: Marcia funebre (Adagio assai)
  • 3rd movement: Scherzo (Allegro vivace)
  • 4th movement: Finale: Allegro molto - Poco andante - Presto


Allegro con brio

Main theme of the 1st movement

The first movement of the Eroica begins with a triad melody that is prepared by a two-bar introduction. These two beats occur on the first of a measure. This topic appears again and again in important places in the first sentence. In this respect, it is not at all a common introduction, as found in the 1st and 2nd symphonies, or in practically all Haydn symphonies, rather you are right in the middle of it from the first note (a sign of the new path that Beethoven is taking mentioned in the composition). It is also very noteworthy that the movement is written in odd (3/4) time - normally the first movement of a symphony was in even time. The 3/4 time makes the first movement - despite all the dynamism, violence and emphasis on the rhythmic - also dance-like. A model here is possibly Mozart's Symphony KV 543, also in E flat major, with the first movement in 3/4 time. There are great similarities with the Anacréon overture by L. Cherubini from 1802. The dance also contradicts the expectations of many contemporaries with regard to a “battle symphony”, which the Eroica is not. The first topic is not a main topic, as is to be expected, but a motivic idea, as it is composed of triad breaks. The first bars of this idea are identical to the theme of the intrada of Mozart's Singspiel The dance also stands in contrast to the expectations of many contemporaries with regard to a “battle symphony”, which the Eroica is not. The first topic is not a main topic, as is to be expected, but a motivic idea, as it is composed of triad breaks. The first bars of this idea are identical to the theme of the intrada of Mozart's Singspiel The dance also stands in contrast to the expectations of many contemporaries with regard to a “battle symphony”, which the Eroica is not. The first topic is not a main topic, as is to be expected, but a motivic idea, as it is composed of triad breaks. The first bars of this idea are identical to the theme of the intrada of Mozart's SingspielBastien and Bastienne KV 50. Since Beethoven hardly knew Mozart's Singspiel, this correspondence is probably a coincidence. It should also be noticeable that this motivic idea appears again in a slightly modified form in the final movement of the 6th symphony “Pastorale”.

By means of openwork workthis theme appears (to accompany syncope) afterwards in other instruments (violins, flutes, clarinets) and at the end of the main movement it returns in interesting instrumentation (development): wood with brass and low strings, the other instruments accompany. A secondary idea appears in measure 45 and is only very short (one measure long, but offset). It is a transitional theme in the double dominant (similar to that in the 9th Symphony). In bar 83 the subordinate movement begins in B flat major (fifth degree = dominant), a very urgent theme, first performed by the woodwinds. The final group begins in measure 109, it brings a combination of the first two topics (main movement). The implementation (bar 152) also works with these two topics at the beginning, However, the motto-like "tutti-beats" soon reappear, but now no longer performed by the whole orchestra. The cascading theme will also soon emerge. From bar 248 the whole orchestra begins with syncopations and the famous 45 sforzati, and one reaches another climax, which is also reminiscent of the 5th symphony. In measure 284 a new theme appears, which does not appear again in the recapitulation but only in the coda. Above a second chord of B7 (bar 394), the horns begin with the main theme in E flat major (the famous “false” horn entry), the recapitulation begins 2 bars later, now really in E flat major. The coda begins in measure 561 and works mainly with the theme from the development. The longest first movement by Beethoven's symphony ends with the orchestra's “tutti beats” (bar 691, approx.

Marcia funebre (Adagio assai)

The second movement from Beethoven's Eroica is a funeral march (Italian: Marcia funebre ) in C minor and consists of three parts in the relatively slow Adagio tempo . It refers to the custom of honoring the dead in France from 1789.

Right at the beginning the violins begin with a plaintive first motif that they play over rolling basses; in bar 9 the theme is repeated with a comforting sound in the oboe. The second theme begins in bar 17 and ends in bar 27. From bar 16, a C minor theme plays the main role, which is continued on and on. Later, in bar 69, the second part begins, which is again in C major and is characterized by a triple fugato . From bar 80 the second theme is further developed and changed until the coda follows in bar 89 , which uses the first motif in fragments and lets it end with the rolling basses at the beginning of the movement. During the movement, the audience hears some examples of human emotion (strokes of fate (minor), joy (C major)).

It should also be mentioned that this sentence was used during the XX. Olympic Games 1972 in the Olympic Stadium in Munich. The occasion was the mourning over the murder of the Israeli athletes by a Palestinian attack force.

Scherzo (Allegro vivace)

The Scherzo as the 3rd movement of the symphony was a great innovation at the time when the audience was counting on a minuetto. The Scherzo has an easy and lively tempo Allegro vivaceFulfills. Everything flows and merges almost seamlessly. At the beginning the strings open with a quick quarter movement to be played “semper pianissimo e staccato”, which initially leaves the listener in the dark as to whether it is a two or three measure. Above this, the oboe introduces the first theme of the movement from bar 7, which is later taken over by the flute. It continues with the hasty staccato movements of the string section. Up to bar 93, everything flowed in pianissimo, which gives the listener the incessant and constant feeling of tension and waiting for a surprise. But now the fortissimo suddenly sets in, and with it the main theme played in the entire orchestra in E flat major. From bar 115, elements of the broken E-flat major triad become the second themeinserted into the staccato events, between woodwinds and strings a motif is set in second stepstossed back and forth. In the trio (from bar 170) the expressive character of the music changes abruptly: A horn chorus plays so-called "horn fifths" in the homophonic movement, a conventional movement for this instrument that results from the traditional construction of the horn without valves and its use in the Hunt reminds. The first theme was still dancing like a waltz (albeit in the atypical pianissimo and apart from the constant jammed second changes, especially in the strings), and the second theme more stormy and determined by the repeated rhythm “quarter-half” perhaps “defiant”, now it works the third theme in the trio (a part of the sentence common in Scherzo), on the other hand, is much calmer, song-like, solemn and noble through the use of the horns the admonition of the (aristocratic) hunt and the quiet “devout” echoes from strings and woodwinds. In the subsequent repetition part (from bar 203) the strings and woodwinds take the lead again with a new, almost "staggering" figure that blurs the bar boundaries.

Finale (Allegro molto - Poco andante - Presto)

The fourth movement consists mainly of variations , the main theme of which arises from a motif from Beethoven's ballet The Creatures of Prometheus . The Eroica Variations can be seen here as preliminary work for the fourth movement of the symphony .

The basic tempo is an Allegro molto ; the movement begins with a toccata-like pizzicato passage in the strings that lasts eleven bars. Then the bass theme is introduced twice, first in three-part, then in four-part . In bar 59 a melodic counterpoint is added; From bar 75 the theme becomes a fugato and this in turn is played by the whole orchestra from bar 84. Bar 107 introduces a transition to C minor, from here the bass theme is used both in the original and mirrored, new ideas constantly flow into the overall form, the design form seems free, but is still based on the theme , the counterpoint is heavily exhausted.

The tempo soon slows down to the Poco Andante , in which the theme spreads across all instruments and spreads out like a chorale. There is also a surprising change to A flat major, and the theme is then varied for the sixth time. At bar 431, the coda finally begins with runs of sixteenth in fast Presto , before landing in the heroic key of E flat major, stormy, enthusiastic and phenomenal. The sentence ends splendidly.


The work is mainly to be seen in connection with Beethoven's enthusiasm for Napoleon at the time and should - as the above letter from Ferdinand Ries suggests - even bear the title Buonaparte . Since Beethoven was planning to move from Vienna to Paris around 1804, he might want to present the symphony to Napoleon in person. However, disappointed that he had crowned himself emperor on December 2, 1804, he withdrew the dedication. (Before that, however, the French Senate had approved the coronation by a majority on March 30th and May 18th.) Ferdinand Ries wrote in his memoirs in 1838:

“With this symphony Beethoven had thought of Buonaparte, but this one when he was still first consul. Beethoven held him in high regard at the time, and compared him to the greatest Roman consuls. Both I and several of his close friends have already written the score of this symphony, seen lying on his table where the word “Buonaparte” was at the top of the title page and “Luigi van Beethoven” at the bottom, but no more. I don't know if and with what the gap should be filled. I was the first to bring him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself emperor, whereupon he became furious and exclaimed: “He's nothing else than an ordinary person! Now he will trample on all human rights, just indulge in his ambition; he will now place himself higher than everyone else, become a tyrant! ”Beethoven went to the table, grabbed the top of the title page, tore it right through and threw it on the ground. The first page was rewritten and only now did the symphony receive the title:

Whether Ries's description is completely correct appears to be doubtful, because the tearing of the title page can already be found on March 18, 1836 in an article in the London magazine The Musical World , and in the Beethoven novel by the author Ernst Ortlepp , which was also published in 1836 , who did not know Beethoven personally:

“The French Revolution […] inspired our Beethoven to write a symphony which he called“ Bonaparte ”. One day he had to read that his political ideal, the French consul, had deigned to sit on the imperial throne. - This deign made him very restless. - As soon as he got home, he tore off the title page of his symphony and made another one with the inscription: "Symphonia" or "Sinfonia Eroica." And that was good. "

The autograph has not survived, just a copy from August 1804, checked by the composer, which is now in the possession of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde . The title page originally read: "Sinfonia grande, intitolata Bonaparte" (Great Symphony, with the title Bonaparte). The last two words were erased by Beethoven, but are still legible.

In addition, he was guided in the layout and in many details of the course of the music for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus , which can be seen most clearly from the fact that in the finale there are several variations on the Prometheus counter dance.

In his Eroica , Beethoven had borrowed from French revolutionary music (especially in the second movement) as well as echoes of Bach's polyphony, which could be interpreted as a musical vision of a German republican society. The fact that Beethoven left his symphony musically unchanged despite his disappointment with Napoleon's coronation as emperor can most plausibly be interpreted by the fact that he still clung to the revolutionary ideals of "freedom, equality, brotherhood" betrayed by Napoleon, and they did for Germany no longer through, but u. a. also wanted to see it realized in the fight against Napoleon.

Literature (selection)

  • Constantin Floros : Beethoven's Eroica and Prometheus Music. 2., ext. Edition. Wilhelmshaven 2008.
  • Lewis Lockwood : Beethoven's Earliest Sketches for the Eroica Symphony. In: The Musical Quarterly. Vol. 67 (1981), pp. 457-478.
  • Reinhold Brinkmann : A little "Eroica" reading. In: Austrian music magazine. Vol. 39 (1984), pp. 634-638.
  • Martin Geck , Peter Schleuning: “Written on Bonaparte”. Beethoven's “Eroica”: revolution, reaction, reception. Reinbek 1989, ISBN 3-499-18568-7 .
  • Peter Schleuning: The date of the premiere of Beethoven's “Sinfonia Eroica”. In: The music research. Vol. 44 (1991), pp. 356-359.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55, “Eroica”, facsimile edition of the original manuscript in the Society of Friends of Music . ed. and commented by Otto Biba . 4 volumes, Vienna 1993.
  • Walther Brauneis : "... composta per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grand uomo": Beethoven's "Eroica" as a homage by Prince Franz Joseph Maximilian von Lobkowitz for Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia. In: Studies on Viennese History. Volume 52/53 (1996/97), pp. 53-88.
  • Thomas Sipe: Beethoven: Eroica Symphony. Cambridge 1998.
  • Rita Steblin : Who Died? The Funeral March in Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. In: The Musical Quarterly. Vol. 89 (2006), pp. 62-79.
  • Katherine R. Syer: A Peculiar Hybrid: The Structure and Chronology of the "Eroica" Sketchbook (Landsberg 6). In: Bonn Beethoven Studies. Volume 5 (2006), pp. 159-181.
  • Renate Ulm (Ed.): The 9 symphonies of Beethoven. Origin, interpretation, effect. Foreword by Lorin Maazel . 6th edition. Bärenreiter et al., Kassel 2009, ISBN 978-3-7618-1241-9 . ( Bärenreiter factory introductions )
  • Alexander Rehding: exploits of music: Symphony No. 3. Eroica and the creatures of Prometheus. In: Oliver Korte , Albrecht Riethmüller (ed.): Beethoven's orchestral music and concerts. (= The Beethoven Handbook. Volume 1). Laaber 2013, pp. 70-94.
  • Lewis Lockwood , Alan Gosman (eds.): Beethoven's "Eroica" sketchbook: a critical edition. 2 volumes, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Springfield 2013.
  • Andrea Würth: Beethoven as the “grand Uomo” of his symphony? A new interpretation of the Eroica Symphony. Diplomatica Verlag, Hamburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-8428-7271-4 . (Digitized version)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Steblin (2006)
  2. ^ Sieghard Brandenburg (ed.): Ludwig van Beethoven, letters. Complete edition. Volume 1, Munich 1996, p. 190.
  3. Brinkmann (1984)
  4. Beethoven's 3rd Symphony
  5. Klaus Martin Kopitz , Rainer Cadenbach (Ed.) U. a .: Beethoven from the point of view of his contemporaries in diaries, letters, poems and memories. Volume 2: Lachner - Zmeskall. Edited by the Beethoven Research Center at the Berlin University of the Arts. Henle, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-87328-120-2 , pp. 561-563.
  6. Klaus Martin Kopitz , Rainer Cadenbach (Ed.) U. a .: Beethoven from the point of view of his contemporaries in diaries, letters, poems and memories. Volume 1: Lachner - Zmeskall. Edited by the Beethoven Research Center at the Berlin University of the Arts. Henle, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-87328-120-2 , p. 536.
  7. Harenberg cultural guide concert. Brockhaus In Der Wissensmedia, p. 65.
  8. ^ Franz Gerhard Wegeler , Ferdinand Ries : Biographical Notes on Ludwig van Beethoven. Koblenz 1838, p. 78.
  9. ^ Musical World. Vol. 1 (1836), p. 10; quoted according to Sipe (1998), p. 30. (digitized version)
  10. ^ Ernst Ortlepp: Beethoven. A fantastic characteristic. Leipzig 1836, p. 83. (digitized version)