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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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Preliminaries

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Testimonies regarding Beethoven’s sources of inspiration “A fiery imagination, a deep penetration into the inner sanctum of harmony that is granted to few initiates, tender, fervent feelings, insight into the nature and power of the instruments to be selected, knowledge of musical materials in their entirety, the ability to shape these mate- rials into all the forms and objects to be represented, an exact acquaintance with the manifold characters, the physical and moral human being, the passions, their external manifestations and effects – all this is required if the music is to be no empty tintinnabulation, no sounding brass nor tinkling cymbal.” Christian Gottlob Neefe Das Charakteristische der Instrumentalmusik Dilettanterien (1785) (from Ludwig Schiedermair, Der junge Beethoven, Leipzig, 1925, p. 152) “You will ask me whence I take my ideas. I cannot say with certainty: they come uncalled, mediately, immediately; I could touch them with my hands, out in nature, in the woods, dur- ing walks, in the silence of night, in the early morning, prompted by moods that transform themselves into words in the poet, into tones in me, sound, roar, storm, until at last they stand as notes before me.” Beethoven to Louis Schlosser (1823) (from Albert Leitzmann, Ludwig van Beethoven. Berichte der Zeitgenossen, Leipzig, 1921, p. 254) “Beethoven often thought of a specific object while composing, although he frequently ridi- culed and reviled tonal painting, especially the petty sort.” Ferdinand Ries in F. G. Wegeler and Ferdinand Ries, Biographische Notizen über Ludwig van Beethoven, Kob- lenz, 1838, pp....

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