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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:

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