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Symphony no. 3 (E-flat major) op. 55 (Sinfonia eroica)

Listening samples
1. Allegro con brio (365 kB)
2. Marcia funebre. Adagio assai (365 kB)
3. Scherzo. Allegro vivace (365 kB)
4. Finale. Allegro molto (365 kB)

Composition
Already planned in autumn 1802, main work begun May-June 1803, finished by early 1804, perhaps autumn 1803
Dedicated to Franz Joseph Maximilian Fürst Lobkowitz

Beethoven worked on his Third Symphony (the 'Eroica') mainly in 1803. Some early drafts date back to autumn 1802, but they may have been nothing more than incomplete initial ideas. By early 1804, he had added his final changes, addenda and adaptations. The symphony was performed for the first time in the early spring of 1804 at Prince Lobkowitz's town house in Vienna, as can be seen from an entry of 9 June 1804 in the prince's account book, which mentions the amounts spent on the musicians rehearsing the symphony (including a third bugler).

There are many anecdotes regarding the composition and performance of the Eroica. One, based on a report from Anton Schindler, maintains that the French General Bernadotte gave Beethoven the idea of composing a piece to celebrate the greatest hero of the era: Napoleon. But as Schindler did not meet Beethoven until 1822, he could not have known details from 1803 or earlier periods. Also, Bernadotte stayed in Vienna for only two months in spring 1798. Therefore, there is considerable doubt whether the general had anything to do with Beethoven and the Eroica at all.
Other anecdotes refer to Beethoven's physician Dr. Joseph Bertolini, who told several biographers and musicians that the funeral march was prompted by Napoleon's Egyptian campaign and the alleged death of Admiral Nelson, and the actual death of General Abercromby, in the Battle of Abukir. But Bertolini was not acquainted with Beethoven at the time (he only met him in 1806), Napoleon's campaign took place in 1798, and Nelson suffered a head wound in the naval battle of Abukir on 1 August 1798. The assumption that Beethoven had a detailed concept of his Third Symphony at that early date is as far-fetched as the supposition that Sir Ralph Abercromby's victory over Napoleon on 21 March 1801 was in any way related to the 'Eroica'.

The most persistent and best-known anecdote claims that Beethoven intended to dedicate the composition to French consul Napoleon Bonaparte and noted this intention on the title page. After Napoleon declared himself emperor, however, the enraged composer allegedly tore up the sheet and loudly complained that Napoleon was no different from any ordinary man, ignoring human rights, following his own ambitions and turning into a tyrant. This anecdote is partly supported by the title page of the symphony's copy, where a hole in the paper suggests a heavy erasure, but in no case did the composer tear up the entire sheet. Beethoven's opinion of Napoleon was very ambivalent and often changed during his lifetime. Initially fascinated and impressed by Napoleon's ideals and achievements, his disappointment at Napoleon's high-handedness and imperial aims, as reported by Ries, is historically verified. The title page supports another fact: Beethoven later added 'written for Bonapart' next to the hole resulting from the erasure. In August 1804 he told his publishers Breitkopf & Härtel of Leipzig that the symphony was actually called 'Bonaparte'. In the 1820s Beethoven's view of Napoleon changed for the better. Yet even then he did not dedicate the symphony to Bonaparte as he had already sold it to Prince Lobkowitz. As a title, he wrote 'Intitolata Bonaparte', then erased it due to his disappointment (thus the hole) and later added 'written for Bonaparte'.

The heading of the first London publication of the score (1809) officially referred to an unknown hero ('Sinfonia Eroica composta per celebrare la morte d'un Eroe') and later read 'per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grand'uomo'. Apart from Napoleon, Beethoven's acquaintance Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, revered as a hero by his contemporaries and killed in a battle with French troops in 1806, is considered the other candidate. And finally, Beethoven might have had in mind an imaginary hero. (J.R.)

First editions
Erstausgabe, op. 55 (Eroica), Partitur, Cianchettini und Sperati, 27, HCB C Md 44
Erstausgabe, op. 55 (Eroica), Partitur, Simrock, 1973, J. Van der Spek C op. 55
Erstausgabe, op. 55 (Eroica), Partitur, Simrock, 1973; Teilscan, C 55 / 6
Titelauflage, op. 55 (Eroica), Stimmen, Bureau des Arts et d'Industrie, 512, HCB C op. 55 = HCB C Md 2
Titelauflage, op. 55 (Eroica), Stimmen, Haslinger, 4018; Teilscan, C 55 / 39
Titelauflage, op. 55 (Eroica), Partitur, Simrock, 1973; Teilscan, HCB C Md 45
Titelauflage, op. 55 (Eroica), Partitur, Simrock, 1973; Teilscan, Schorn 93

Scores
Bibliographic data in library catalogue

Written documents
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 21. Mai 1803, HCB Br 304
Brief an Nikolaus Simrock in Bonn, Wien, 25. Mai 1803, HCB Br 314
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 14. Oktober 1803, HCB Br 306
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 26. August 1804, HCB Br 63
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 10. Oktober 1804, HCB Br 309
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 24. November 1804, HCB Br 310
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 16. Januar 1805, HCB Br 64
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 12. Februar 1805, HCB Br 312
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 18. April 1805, HCB Br 66
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, Mai 1805, HCB Br 65
Brief an Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, Wien, 5. Juli 1806, HCB Br 67
Brief an Karl Holz, Wien, kurz vor dem 27. November 1825, NE 117
Brief an Albert Stadler in Wels, Wien, 7. März 1837, BH 179
Aufsatz "Beethoven's "heroische Symphonie.", HCB ZBr 13

Pictures
"Beethovens Heldensymphonie" - Holzstich nach einer Zeichnung, wohl von Hermann Vogel, 1889, B 2470
"Die neun Symphonien grüßen ihren sterbenden Schöpfer, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree als Beethoven bei der Aufführung des gleichnamigen Dramas in London" - Reproduktion einer Zeichnung von Fred Pegram, 1909 ?, B 2476
Beethovens 3. Sinfonie op. 55 "Eroica", allegorische Darstellung - Reproduktion einer Radierung von Alois Kolb aus dem Jahr 1921, erschienen Leipzig, 1927, 1927, B 2472, 3a
Beethovens 3. Sinfonie op. 55 "Eroica", allegorische Darstellung - Reproduktion einer Radierung von Alois Kolb, 1927, NE 81, Band VIII, Nr. 113
"Zu Beethovens Eroica" - Reproduktion einer Zeichnung von Erich Gruner, um 1930 ?, B 2468
Das Beethoven-Haus in Wien-Nussdorf, Kahlenberger Straße 26, um 1935 - Radierung von Herta Czoernig-Gobanz nach einer eigenen Zeichnung, um 1935?, B 2417
Franz Joseph Maximilian Fürst von Lobkowitz ( 1772-1816) - Fotografie eines wohl von Friedrich Oelenhainz stammenden Ölgemäldes, um 1935?, NE 81, Band I, Nr. 173
Beethovens 3. Sinfonie, 1. Satz - Ölgemälde von Tommaso de Meo, Rom, 1965, 1965, B 2265
Beethovens 3. Sinfonie, 2. Satz - Ölgemälde von Tommaso de Meo, Rom, 1965, 1965, B 2266
Beethovens 3. Sinfonie, 3. Satz - Ölgemälde von Tommaso de Meo, Rom, 1965, 1965, B 2267
Beethovens 3. Sinfonie, 4. Satz - Ölgemälde von Tommaso de Meo, Rom, 1965, 1965, B 2268
Beethovens Sinfonie Nr. 3 (Es-dur, op. 55) - Fotografie eines Gemäldes von Radu Dragomir, um 1971, Ni 42 DRAG / 1970 Drag
"Beethoven. Eroica" - Reproduktion einer Radierung von Roberto Hoffmann, wohl nach einer eigenen Zeichnung, um 1987, B 1878

Literature
Bibliographic data in library catalogue

Manuscript sources in other libraries
Berlin: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung mit Mendelssohn-Archiv
Österreich, Wien: Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Archiv, Bibliothek und Sammlungen
Polen, Kraków: Biblioteka Jagiellonska

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E-Mail: bibliothek@beethoven-haus-bonn.de