With his Third Symphony, Ludwig van Beethoven expanded the idea of what a symphony could be. The "Eroica" was longer and more intense than a traditional symphony and called for a larger orchestra.
The man who helped inspire the symphony? Napoleon Bonaparte, a leader whose vision initially captivated Beethoven. Then Napoleon crowned himself emperor, and a disgusted Beethoven responded by dedicating the finished piece to "the memory of a great man."
Watch a performance
Here's the Berlin Philharmonic and conductor Leonard Bernstein playing Symphony No. 3 in its entirety:
Some of CPR Classical's favorite recordings of Symphony No. 3:
- Minnesota Orchestra; Osmo Vanska, conductor
- Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra; John Eliot Gardiner, conductor
- German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen; Paavo Jarvi, conductor
- Cleveland Orchestra; George Szell, conductor
Host Monika Vischer on Symphony No. 3:
All of Napoleon’s most virtuous ideals, his fight for independence and opportunity, are expressed in this gargantuan tribute to mankind.
Napoleon’s self-coronation changed that. Beethoven found it repulsive. He scratched Napoleon’s name from the title page of the score and eventually published the work with the title "Heroic Symphony -- composed to celebrate the memory of a great man."
Read the full essay.
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The Beethoven 9 podcast offers an in-depth exploration of Ludwig van Beethoven's nine symphonies, featuring host Monika Vischer and Beethoven biographer Jan Swafford. Hear other episodes or subscribe to be notified when new installments are available.