Allegro con brio movement from the Third Symphony.
Allegro Assai movement from the Third Symphony (Marcia Funebre).
Whereas Beethoven's first two symphonies suggest the mature works of Haydn and
Mozart as models for orchestral composition, the "Eroica" is a manifestly
original work which heralds a new age in symphonic style. It adheres to the
Classical principles of tonality and the use of themes and motifs, but extends
their limits so far that it remained musically the most innovatory of all
Beethoven's symphonies up to the Ninth. The "Eroica" is almost twice as long
as any earlier symphony. And despite the fact that the performing forces have
been enlarged by just one instrument - a third horn - there is an
unprecedented depth of orchestral color. It is no coincidence that the opening
theme of the first movement, first played by the cellos, is based on the
notes of the major third, i.e. precisely the notes which are most
characteristic of the sound of the horn. For when - soon after the
recapitulation begins - Beethoven suddenly steers the harmony off course
towards the distant key of F major, he is able to accentuate its remoteness
from the tonic key of E flat by using the horn to state the opening theme in
F - the first time in the piece that this instrument has strayed from the home
key. The first movement has an abundance of such "new" orchestral sounds and
modulations to distant keys, as well as numerous clashes of sound between
opposing instruments. All of these innovations are more than merely striking
effects: they form an integral part of the design of the piece, and are the
principal justification for the very aspect of the symphony - its inordinate
length - that Beethoven's contemporaries found most displeasing when the work
was first performed in 1805.
The Funeral March, whose extra-musical associations justify the programmatic
title Beethoven gave to the symphony as a whole, is a large rondo structure.
Its principal section, a solemn dirge in C minor, contrasts with brighter
episode in C major and the massive fugato in F minor.
The "Eroica" is the first symphony to integrate the traditionally slender
minuet of scherzo movement into the larger dramatic plan of the work,
Beethoven achieves this by avoiding any statement of a well-defined theme
until after the home key has been established, by the strings. He then gives
the oboe a catchy tune, but in a new key. We then hear it on the flute, in
yet another key. And so its third appearance is all the more exciting when
the full orchestra jubilantly plays it for the first time in the home key.
The trio section features the three horns as a discrete ensemble for the
first time in the symphony, and can thus be thought of as a celebration of
the work's special instrumentation.
The finale is based on a contredanse Beethoven wrote in 1801 and subsequently
used in the Prometheus ballet music and as the theme of the Variations
op. 35 for piano, and is the composer's first major synthesis of variation and
sonata-form principles. It has an exposition in which the theme is gradually
assembled, beginning with a terse bass line and eventually incorporating a
broad melody; a development which comprises a fugato on the first four notes
of the bass line, a stern march-like episode in the minor mode, and two false
reprises of the main body; and a recapitulation which begins with a second
fugato, in the home key and the based on an inversion of the same incipit of
the bass line, to which a fragment of the main melody appears as a
countersubject. There follows an extended coda, beginning with a stately
Andante which features a nobler form of the melody and after a passage of
harmonic transition, concluding with an exuberant Presto.
Multimedia Beethoven Online Encyclopaedia provides completely explanation of Ludwig van Beethoven's
greatest works - his nine symphonies. Please choose the number of the symphony below: