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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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III. The Subject of Salvatore Viganò’s Heroic Ballet "The Creatures of Prometheus"

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21 III. The Subject of Salvatore Viganò’s Heroic Ballet The Creatures of Prometheus Here sit I, forming men In my own image. A new race in my likeness, To suffer, to weep, To enjoy and to know happiness, And pay you no heed, Zeus, Like me. Goethe, Prometheus (1774) Of the music to the ballet Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus (Gli Uomini di Pro- meteo) it may be said that it is not generally reckoned among Beethoven’s greatest works. That may be the reason why to date it has not nearly gained the attention it deserves: since Hugo Riemann’s study of 19101 it has not been thor- oughly analyzed. Yet there are numerous indications that this ballet music is of great signifi- cance for a proper understanding of Beethoven’s work. It appears in more than one respect to occupy the place of a key work for the compositions of Beetho- ven’s middle period. For one thing, it offers crucial clues to an understanding of the Eroica. For another, it very likely represents Beethoven’s earliest contribu- tion to the genre of program music. Thirdly, the hitherto unutilized sketches to this work permit highly instructive insights into Beethoven’s creative process and his way of thinking. It is thus imperative to include the subject and the mu- sic of this unjustly ignored ballet in our investigation. Let us, to begin with, consider the subject of this “heroic-allegorical” bal- let. Salvatore Viganò’s Italian-German libretto is thought to be lost. Luckily there are...

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