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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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IV. Beethoven’s Prometheus Music

Extract

La Musique est à la Danse ce que les Paroles sont à la Musique. Noverre, Lettres (1760)1 La musique est essentielle aux Pantomimes: c’est elle qui parle, nous ne faison que les gestes …Il nous seroit presque impossible de nous faire entendre sans la Musique, et plus elle est appropriée à ce que nous voulons exprimer, plus nous nous rendons intelligibles. Gasparo Angiolini, Le Festin de Pierre, Vienna, 17612 1. The Relation of the Individual Numbers to the Scenes of the Action Although not uncontroverted, the notion that Beethoven’s best instrumental works belong to the category of absolute music, and that Beethoven is a master of autonomously created music, has taken root so firmly in the consciousness of the artistic as well as the scholarly world that Beethoven’s program-driven works have only rarely received an unprejudiced appreciation. As a rule they are either reckoned among the parerga or regarded as absolute music. Hugo Riemann’s judgments about the Prometheus music are typical of the embarrassment that Beethoven’s program music causes some critics. In his study of 1910, he thought that here Beethoven had entered “the precincts of genuine program music a little ways” (!), in which “he was less at home than when he objectified his own inner life without any secondary intention.” For this reason his (Riemann’s) interpretation would also not succeed in letting the Prometheus music grow sufficiently in “artistic merit” to make it “rank with the symphonies or the great sonatas and quartets.”3 Riemann’s discussion of the Prometheus music...

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