Beethoven and Napoleon: Beethoven's Eroica

 Beethoven in 1804 by Horneman (L); Napoleon in coronation costume by Robert Lefebvre1807.


Beethoven called his Third Symphony Eroica (“Heroic”). The Eroica is two hundred years old yet still seems modern.

In this symphony Beethoven began to use broad strokes of sound to tell us how he felt, and what being alive meant to him. The piece caused a sensation and changed the idea of what a symphony could be.

When Beethoven called this piece “heroic,” he wasn’t kidding. It’s bigger, longer than a symphony had ever been. It’s confessional, even confrontational.

Just the scale of it was huge, unprecedented—and daunting for its first listeners. It foreshadowed the world that Wagner and, ultimately, Sigmund Freud would explore—the realm of the unconscious. That’s what was so revolutionary.


By late 1803, Beethoven had sketched out his new epic symphony, the Eroica. It was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution and dedicated to its hero, who then seemed to be the great liberator of the people: Napoleon.

Beethoven thought of himself as a free spirit, and he admired the principles of freedom and equality embodied by the French Revolution. He thought he recognized in Napoleon a hero of the people and a champion of freedom, which was why he intended to dedicate a huge new symphony to him.

But when Beethoven heard the news in late 1804 that Napoleon had crowned himself Emperor of France, he
was disgusted. “He’s just a rascal like all the others,” he exclaimed.Beethoven violently erased Napoleon’s name from his manuscript—so forcefully, in fact, that he erased his way right through the paper, leaving holes in the title page.

So this revolutionary piece of music that was originally to be The Bonaparte Symphony became simply Eroica—the heroic.

But if the hero of the music was no longer Napoleon, who was it? The Eroica explores what it means to be human. In facing his own demons and choosing to continue making music, to continue living, Beethoven embraced the heroic in everyman and, ultimately, in himself.

Beethoven said that this symphony was his favorite. In it, he envisioned where his music was going and in fact where the music of the future was going.

All the works that followed it—by Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mahler—would have been impossible without the pathfinding steps that Beethoven took in this symphony
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Read more about the movements of Beethoven's Eroica


Musical Moments with Anthony Tommasini: Mahler

Anthony Tommasini, classical music critic of The New York Times, performs some of his favorite classical music moments on piano.

Tommasini discusses one of the songs from Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer', "Ging heut Morgen übers Feld" ("I Went This Morning over the Field"), contains the happiest music of the work. Indeed, it is a song of joy and wonder at the beauty of nature in simple actions like birdsong and dew on the grass. "Is it not a lovely world?" is a refrain.

However, the Wayfarer is reminded at the end that despite this beauty, his happiness will not blossom anymore now that his love is gone. This movement is orchestrated delicately, making use of high strings and flutes, as well as a fair amount of triangle. The melody of this movement, as well as much of the orchestration, is developed into the 'A' theme of the first movement of the First Symphony.





Three Quick Lessons From The Violin Wunderkind Who Became A Master


Joshua Bell was once a boy wonder of the violin. Now, at 46, he leads nine young musicians in Masterclass. HBO's 30-minute documentary series pairs young artists with world-renowned mentors such as Placido Domingo, Frank Gehry and Patti LuPone, and gives both the teacher and the students opportunities to learn from each other. During an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel, Bell offers three solid pieces of advice to musicians new and old:




    "It's important to understand] your role in playing chamber music."

    "The key is to figure out what you're contributing. If it's rhythm, then you don't want to drown everyone out. You want people to understand the rhythmic basis."

    "To play with great energy and great character within [the soft dynamic] piano is something that one needs to learn how to do."


Fascinating Author Interviews Dr. Warren L. Woodruff





Dr. Warren L. Woodruff holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Piano Performance and a Ph.D. in Musicology with a concentration in Piano Performance. He has a twenty-five year distinguished teaching career and is currently head of the Woodruff School of the Arts in historic Roswell, Georgia. His interests include attending great musical performances across the country, reading books of philosophy, history and science as well as fiction. His favorite pastimes, besides music and writing, are fitness and weight-training. To learn more, please visit www.drfuddle.com.

About the Book:

When the dark musician Jedermann and his fierce Seirens of Dis gain control of the legendary Gold Baton, Tyler, his sister Christina and their friends are drawn into a perilous adventure foretold by an ancient prophecy.

Guided by the mythical Dr. Fuddle, the explorers must leave earth and journey to Orphea. Will the Messengers of Music be able to save the world of the immortal composers from chaos and destruction? For them to have even a chance at victory, they must master the most difficult instruments of all–themselves.

Author Interview:

Q. What excites you most about your book’s topic? Why did you choose it?

A. What excites me the most about my book is the mysterious, fantasy land of Orphea and what the Messengers of Music learn there. I chose this setting to likewise inspire our young readers to achieve excellence in all they do and find their passion in life.

Q. How long did the book take you from start to finish?

A. Two years, nine drafts total.

Q. What aspect of writing the book did you find particularly challenging?
A. Learning the technical skills of writing, when my professional background is music.

Q. Did you do any research for your books, or did you write from experience?

A. Both. Since I have a Ph.D. in Musicology, I have more information than anyone could ever dream of wanting off the top of my head, but there were some details I wanted to make sure were historically correct.

Q. What surprised you most about this process?

A. How difficult it is to get a book to tell a story and make it read like a “real” book.

Q. Did you have any notable experiences from writing your book?

A. Yes. There were times when I was working with my writing coach Mardeene Mitchell that I felt like I was no longer on earth, but that we were working on a spiritual plane.

Q. What do you hope your readers will gain from reading your book?

A. Primarily, I want them entertained and feel as though they’ve actually been in Orphea with Dr. Fuddle and the Messengers of Music and that they’ve fought in the battle against Jedermann to reclaim the Gold Baton. Secondarily, I want to pique their interest in classical music.

Q. What other projects are you working on?
A. The screenplay of Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton and a sequel to the first book. I’m also working on re-writing my six scene play Beethoven in Final Draft.

Q. Is writing your sole career? If not, what else do you do?

A. No. Writing is like a second career. I’ve been teaching the art of classical piano for over twenty-five years and with the autoimmune disease threatening my musical career, I’m transitioning to becoming a professional writer, but will always teach as long as my hearing allows.

Q. When can we look forward to your next book?

A. Within one to two years, then one a year after that. I plan to make Dr. Fuddle a series of five to seven novels. I’m also envisioning a children’s picture book series entitled The Adventures of Dr. Fuddle, which would be more educational musically rather than fantasy adventure, but still entertaining, something like The Magic School Bus series.

Classical musicians honor 'Batman' history with an incredible music video journey






The Piano Guys are probably having more fun than anyone else in the classical music business. The group — composed of a pianist, cellist, a videographer, and a music producer — has just released a music video that celebrates nearly 50 years of Batman. The video perfectly matches the group's new "Batman Evolution" composition, which travels through the classic ‘60s TV show, Tim Burton's 1989 take on the Dark Knight, and Christopher Nolan's most recent trilogy.

The result is not just some impressive piano and cello work (the two instruments alone were used to make every sound in the composition), but a music video that displays some incredible attention to detail. Each of the three eras gets its own location, Batmobile, and visual style to go along with the shifts in music. (Pay close attention to the aspect ratio: even it is tailored to each era.) The Piano Guys have made a name for themselves doing these kinds of over-the-top classical music videos, and while this might be some of their best work, be sure to check out their Mission ImpossibleBourne Identity, and Star Wars music videos as well. And for more on the making of 

"Batman Evolution," take a look at the group's website.