Beethoven, the "Eroica" symphony


Beethoven, the "Eroica" symphony

Thomas Sipe

(Cambridge music handbooks)

Cambridge University Press, 1998

  • : hbk
  • : pbk

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Includes bibliographical references (p. 137-139) and index



The Eroica Symphony is perhaps Beethoven's most provocative work. Its unprecedented design and its powerful emotional impact forever redefined the potential of musical expression. The work was conceived as a homage to Napoleon Bonaparte, but understood for over a century as a passionate rejection of the tyranny he came to represent. This book traces the compositional process and puts the Eroica in precise historical and aesthetic perspective: the political situations that brought about both the dedication to Napoleon and its withdrawal show that Beethoven followed diplomatic developments astutely. Early interpretations by Beethoven's contemporaries show that they understood the work's import clearly. This study focuses on Beethoven's unique ability to imbue traditional symphonic forms with the idealism of his philosophical mentor, Friedrich Schiller.


  • 1. From revolution to Empire: overview
  • 2. Compositional genesis
  • 3. The dedication to Napoleon Bonaparte
  • 4. Reception
  • 5. Aesthetic background
  • 6. Interpretation.

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