The Philadelphia Orchestra continues its cycle of Beethoven’s complete symphonies in celebration of the composer’s 250th anniversary.
Beethoven’s Third Symphony, the revolutionary “Eroica,” so changed the history of the genre upon its public premiere in 1805 that it quickly overshadowed his first two symphonies, which he had composed shortly before. Despite its humor and good cheer, some critics initially greeted the Second Symphony as “bizarre.” Beethoven wrote it around a time of acute personal crisis, as he was first confronting his loss of hearing.
The crisis seems more evident in relation to the “Eroica,” which Beethoven originally called “Bonaparte.” He changed the title after becoming disillusioned when Napoleon crowned himself emperor. The heroism of this monumental work nonetheless remains and may relate to the composer’s own struggles at the time.