Symphony No. 3 Eroica
Below are some excerpts from the narrative I wrote on behalf of the Two Moors Festival for Beethoven’s third symphony, also known as the Eroica. Of them all, this was the most interesting to research and the most entertaining to write and I feel I captured Beethoven’s tempestuous spirit particularly well here.
My third is finally complete. The ‘Grand Symphony in E flat major, entitled Bonaparte’ by Signor Louis Van Beethoven! My most magnificent yet and, undoubtedly, my favourite of them all thus far. Tell me, what better man to be the inspiration for such a work but that champion of the people, that son of the Revolution – Napoleon!
A man such as he, to rise up from nothing and fearlessly assume the role of saviour of his ravaged nation – that is the mark of a true hero. And it is my intention to dedicate my work to this true hero of France, who I believe is much misunderstood – and to think, I shall shortly be moving to the city that he calls home.
I know that I appear to stand alone in my convictions of Napoleon’s inherent nobility and his plans in this war that rages around us. My friends, the foolish people out there, all say he desires no more than to make himself emperor. Well, the Devil take you! Not he! Greed, pride, an empty heart – these are sins that do not assail his soul. No, no. I am right. My most heroic symphony for the most deserving of men.
If only this throbbing in my ears would pass. That awful, familiar buzzing that goes on and on and on in my head! To be me – Beethoven – and be condemned to endure life weighed down by this terrible malady. It is a curse. But…courage! In spite of all weaknesses, my spirit shall rule. This year must determine the complete man. Nothing must remain undone!
Mark this; my Third Symphony will change the world but it will not do so without a battle. I can hear the critics’ disparaging remarks and the orchestra’s complaints already! Ha! I am most looking forward to it. They will say that it is “too difficult to play”, “too long”, they will beg me to rip it apart, strip it limb from limb to pander to their pathetic inability to play their instruments correctly.
But, I will bellow “what do I care for your miserable fiddle when the spirit moves me?” They will whisper behind my back, “why has he reused the theme from The Creatures of Prometheus? What is his intention? Most peculiar”. But I will not heed them. It is my ballet after all, is it not? Am I not allowed to reinvent my own wheel?
I have been dealt another cruel and unexpected blow – Napoleon Bonaparte! It seems I have been mistaken in that bastard. A hero! Pah! A contemptible creature he now seems to me. To call himself Emperor! How dare he? So he, too, is nothing but an ordinary mortal.
Now he will trample underfoot all the Rights of Man and indulge his only ambition. He will now set himself on high, like all the others, and become a tyrant. I will not bow down at the feet of this snake. No! My symphony will not be his! It…will…not! The work belongs to me, to no-one else – for no-one else. It shall be called my Sinfonia Eroica and it shall astound! It must, it must.