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Beethoven’s «Eroica»

Thematic Studies- Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

With this study the author «opened up a previously locked door of Beethoven research» (Martin Geck). The book presents conclusive answers to questions that had occupied critics for more than a century. It makes clear what exactly Beethoven and his contemporaries meant by the term «heroic». It proves that the «heroic-allegorical ballet» The Creatures of Prometheus is a key work for an understanding of the Eroica, and shows that Beethoven associated the First Consul of the French Republic, Napoleon Bonaparte, with the mythical figure of the Titan Prometheus. The book draws on interdisciplinary researches in the areas of Greek Mythology, Napoleonic History and Comparative Literature.


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The present study originated in the years 1976 and 1977, after interdisciplinary researches in the areas of Greek mythology, Napoleonic history and compara- tive literature. It has nothing whatever to do with the disreputable hermeneutics of Hermann Kretzschmar and Arnold Schering.1 Rather, it draws on the method of verifiable music-semantic analysis I developed in the ‘sixties and demon- strated on numerous works of many composers.2 At the time of writing it, I had no inkling of the plethora of reactions its publication in the fall of 1978 would unleash. To my surprise, Der Spiegel ran a detailed and enthusiastic review in April of 1979.3 Some time afterwards, I received a letter from Harry Gold- schmidt, referring me to his small book Beethoven. Werkeinführungen (Guide to the Works), which had appeared at Reclam in Leipzig in 1975, and which he sent me. Goldschmidt thought he had essentially anticipated the research results of my study in this booklet.4 Not knowing Goldschmidt’s book at the time – books from the GDR rarely reached the Federal Republic and, if at all, did so belatedly – I read the chapters about the Eroica (pp. 29-33) and the Prometheus music (pp. 290-300) and identified numerous erroneous statements and wrong correlations, which were altogether inconsistent with the results of my own work. In a long letter to Goldschmidt, I disproved the charges raised against me point by point. Thereupon Goldschmidt wrote to me on November 24, 1979: In order to review and reflect upon your detailed reply to...

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