ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Layman's Review: Beethoven - Symphony No. 3, Eroica

Updated on March 29, 2014


Beethoven's Eroica symphony opens with two chords heard round the world. These two simple, but powerful triads in E flat shook the foundations of serene early 19th century music. This was a battle cry. This was a Clarion call to a new understanding of music. This was Rock & Roll, 160 years before the Beatles!

It is said that a third of the people who heard it at the time of its premiere understood and appreciated it. Another 3rd didn't understand it at all, but held Beethoven in such high regard that it must be genius. And the final 3rd were so shell-shocked they would have preferred the whole affair had not taken place at all!


The background is a somewhat famous story. Upon completing his 3rd symphony, Beethoven had dedicated it to Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven was quite taken by the French general and his embodiment of the ideals of the French Revolution. However, Beethoven became disgusted with Napoleon when he crowned himself Emperor of France in 1804. Such was his disgust upon reading the news that he immediately went to his still unpublished score and scratched out the name "Bonaparte" so violently that he created a hole in the paper. Later, he changed the title to: Sinfonia eroica, composta per festeggiare il sovvenire d'un grand'uomo, or "heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man". To become forever known as simply "Eroica".


Eroica is Italian for "heroic", and it is a descriptive name that works on many levels for Beethoven's 3rd Symphony.

On the most obvious level, the Eroica is full of drama and epic struggle from the 1st movement to the last. This is pulse-quickening, heart pounding music - this symphony is a verb!

On another level, consider the following. Circa 1802, Beethoven declared, "I am but lately little satisfied with my works, I shall take a new way." Beethoven's "new way" is what historians refer to as his "Heroic period", and it is during this period that Beethoven's compositions begin to explore much more emotional depths and lead many to say that Beethoven was the first of the Romantic composers, or was at the very least blazing the path that Romantic composers would continue down in his absence.

This is perhaps the first of Beethoven's compositions from his "Heroic period". It was written in 1803. The entire piece is threaded with drama and struggle of heroic proportions. In fact, even the length of the piece was colossal for the time. This is Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band rolled into one.

Beethoven Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major 'Eroica', Op. 55 Complete


The production quality on this CD is terrific, and Bernstein does a fantastic job conducting. But that's not why I bought this CD. In fact, there are at least 2 versions of Bernstein conducting Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 but this was the only one that had an additional 5th track in which Bernstein gives a lecture, "How A Great Symphony Was Written", which details the significance of the Eroica's 1st movement. It's exquisite. It's entirely understandable - even to someone who has no musical training. All that is required is an interest and a pair of ears!

Here's how he opens the lecture, speaking after the two "hammer blow" notes that open the symphony:

"Simplicity itself made manifest. A theme is a statement, a bare fact. Beethoven always started with a fact, an axiom, and his art consists in examining that fact with so universal a range of vision that the axiom becomes living experience...."

In the pairing of Beethoven and Bernstein on this CD it is truly a case where genius meets genius.

Leonard Bernstein Discusses Beethoven's 3rd Symphony


I would whole heartedly recommend this CD for anyone who is a serious fan of classical music, but also for anyone who is looking to broaden their knowledge of great (and historically significant) classical music. It's not great background music, and probably too much for casual listening, but it's perfect for armchair conducting or any vigorous activity.

Comments Are Greatly Appreciated

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Great hub - I still don't think anyone has been able to outdo Bernstein on Mahler to date....

    • profile image

      Bostonian Banter 

      9 years ago

      Great coverage. Bernstein fan here. Thank you.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Please, please don't compare this masterpiece to rock music. It's like comparing a diamond to, well, a rock. :)

    • M. Beck profile imageAUTHOR

      M. Beck 

      10 years ago from Parts Unknown

      LOL Isabella!

      When you find out, let me know too. I've often thought the same thing, yet I've heard some very capable orchestras sound terrible (rushed, and disjointed) under different conductors. So whatever ethereal finesse they bring to the event, it does make a difference.


    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 

      10 years ago

      I'm always fascinated when watching conductors. They never seem to be in time with any of the music I hear. And I hear everything! I just don't get what they are actually doing. I must know 6 kids in school to be conductors.. I'm going to have to ask one of them!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)