III. EROICA symphony, E flat major, opus 55.


Information before the analysis


Beethoven composed this symphony in the years 1803-1804. On the top of the first page of the original score he wrote the name Bonaparte, and on the bottom he wrote his own. Presumably he considered Napoleon [Bonaparte (1769-1821)], a great commander and statesman, however when he came to know that on the 18th of May, 1804 he was crowned emperor, he gave a new title for his symphony: Eroica Symphony.


What does the word eroica mean?  – it – heroic, heroically; music – (should be performed with) heroic pathos.


Beethoven dedicated his composition to his benefactor, prince Lobkowitz. Its first open performance was on the 7th of April, 1805, conducted by Franz Clement.

This symphony was composed in the beginning of Beethoven’s second – we could say: fulfilling – phase.


Beethoven considered this one of his best symphonies. It is a leap of quality among his compositions. The first musical piece with poetic content. He is thirty-three years old at this time. Once in 1802 he said the following: “I am not satisfied with my compositions thus far. I shall take a new path.”


What did Rossini, Gioachino Antonio (1792–1868) said after listening to the symphony in Wien in 1822? – He said but one word: “Wonderful!”

It is also worth to note what Beethoven once said: ”It shan’t be played for a tired audience!” Today it tries the listener’s attention. Its playtime is usually 60 minutes. /depending on the conductor’s tempo./


The III. symphony is Beethoven’s most significant masterpiece. In the history of music, it is like Michalengelo’s David (Donatello, 1504), among sculptures. This symphony begins a new page, a new chapter in musical history.





Analysis of the I. movement.


Movement form: sonata form.

Tempo designation: Allegro con brio, time signature: 3/4


I. Exposition


The exposition begins with two forte orchestral chords sounding on the whole orchestra.

The first theme consists of two parts.

a/ The first part sounds on cellos, and it cannot be seen as a complete melody – this is the movement’s main motif.

b/ The second part sounds on violins, and it is not a continuation of the first part’s melody.  007_Egy_elso_tema.wav


The main motif begins again, followed by motif-weaving, and after a short transition the main theme appears again on the whole orchestra, but fulfillment is omitted here as well.


In another transition section Á (it could be a theme!) we hear the so called „dolce-motif” repeated four times, accompanied by the fast-paced, rhythmic “violin-figurations”. Then this part is concluded with unison-passages”. (dolce) The dolce-motif:  047_Elso_dolce_mot.wav


According to the rules of the sonata form the second theme would follow. According to musicologist Bence Szabolcsi, this is not a real second theme, only an ”elegiac final note”, which is repeated; we once again feel the need of closure, but it does not happen.

The melody of the elegiac final note: 048_Elso_elegikus.wav


After a transition, the main theme’s rhythmic variant follows, and it is concluded and followed by six dissonant chord-beats on the orchestra.


The closing theme expresses pain played by violins and flutes , to which there is a concluding section; the four orchestral chords now also mean the conclusion of the exposition. We listen to it now: 049_Egy_zárótéma.wav


Now that we are familiar with the exposition’s musical material (we have listened to each musical section several times), when listening to it continuously we should pay attention to the following:

§  the structure is not according to the rules of the form.

§  The musical thought does not develop into a theme.

§  There is no real second theme, no definite closing theme.

§  Something begins in the exposition, but it does not end.


Observation: Although Beethoven prescribed the repetition of the exposition’s introductory line, conductors today omit it. There are several reasons for this that should not be discussed now.


II. Elaboration


The elaboration is split into four musical blocks; these were marked with the letters A, B, C, and D by German musicologist Lorenz, A.O. (1868-1939).


Contents of block “A”:

It begins with the repetitions of the dolce-motifs, which is accompanied by an upward moving “counterpoint-motif” consisting of seven notes.

Then we hear the moll variant of the main theme on string instruments (the repetition in bass has a somber tone), accompanied by a downward moving, fast paced “violin-figuration”, followed by a conclusion.


Contents of block “B”:

It also begins with the repetitions of the dolce-motif, but a countertheme with broken rhythm also appears. The music becomes more energetic, the dynamics become stronger, the tensions rise; we feel forces clashing, at the end of which there is only heaps of chords present. The name of the elaboration section: energetic section.

At the end of the section the music becomes unbearable, because it develops into a dissonant climax, the resolution of which happens at the beginning of block “C”.


Contents of block “C”:

The resolution is the second theme, which is instantly repeated. Despite the rules of the form, here it sounds in the elaboration section. It is an extremely intimate, emotional melody, a true partner of the main theme; later we can only hear it in the coda.

Next, the main theme’s bass-variants sound.

Then the second theme sounds again, along with its motif-weavings.


Contents of block “D”:

The main theme sounds in rich orchestration, and it is repeated several times. We soon reach the elaboration’s climax (this is not identical with the movement’s climax!), then theme-shortening happens, the orchestra goes silent, only the violins are present in pianissimo, when suddenly the main theme sounds on the horns, then an orchestral forte concludes block “D”, as well as the elaboration section.



III. Reexposition


The horn at the end of block “D” “announces” the coming of the reexposition. after an orchestral forte the first theme sounds. After, the main theme achieves its full, concluded version. It first sounds on the horns, then on flutes, but we somehow  have the feeling that we still haven’t heard the final, concluding version.


After these the musical material heard in the exposition is repeated, somewhat shortened. We can see the difference in the flow-chart. See ppt page #7!



IV. Coda

The coda can be divided into two parts.


1. Preparatory section

It begins with the repetition of the main theme. We hear it in piano as well as in forte.

Then the piano main theme is accompanied by a countertheme-figuration, which is followed by the repetition of the second theme. then the countertheme-figuration appears for a moment, but it is immediately shortened.

Then we hear the main theme again (its melody prolonged in time!).


2. Concluding section

The main theme achieves its full, concluded, now fulfilled melody (first strengthened by the horns, then by the wind instruments), but we still feel this is not the final version. It is accompanied this time by an upward moving violin-figuration, repeated twice.

Then we hear the main theme’s repetitions again, while the dynamics gradually become more powerful, and the orchestral sounding becomes richer. When the main theme sounds again, it marks the climax of the movement.

This version is the main theme’s true, final, concluding version; it emanates true force, it shines with its full bright. All musical happenings in the movement reach their solution, their peace here, which is also an answer to the melody of the main theme in the beginning of the movement.

After this the concluding section is finished the same way the movement begun: with two orchestral chords.



Analysis of the II. movement


Movement form: free sonata form

Tempo designation: Marcia funebre (Funeral march), Adagio assai, c-moll,

time signature: 2/4


the movement can be divided into five sections.

The analysis is done according to the sections:

The first                                  - is the exposition.

The second and third             - is the elaboration.

The fourth                              - is the reexposition.

The fifth                                 - is the coda.



Exposition /first section/


The movement’s main theme is a funeral march, which sounds in two versions, two qualities – their melody is different.

In the first section the funeral march-1 ( Fm-1 ) sounds on strings, then it is repeated on wind instruments. Then the melody of  Fm-1‘s consequent clause sounds with new melody modeling.

In the transition section we hear the funeral oration of cellos, followed by the minor variant Gy-1. We hear the funeral march’s consequent part again, then the minor variant, and as a conclusion, the epilogue.




(The elaboration is divided into two sections, but I name them second and third section as described above.)


Second section. We first hear the funeral march’s lighter version which puts less emphasis on pain and grief; this is funeral_march-2 ( Gy-2 ), which is interrupted by orchestral forte and the oration of drums. We hear this melody again followed by orchestral forte and concluded with a short transition.


Gy-1 sounds in c-minor, while Gy-2 sounds in C-major; so the latter expresses pain and grief less than its minor variant. (Contemporary music regarded the c-minor tone mournful, and the g-minor as piercingly tragic. /Mozart composed two symphonies in the latter./)


Third section. It begins with the beginning of Gy-1’s melody, but it is interrupted. It is followed by the funeral march’s consequent part accompanied by a counter-theme. This short third section is dominated by the development of the theme and the counter-theme. The method of development is fugato.

At the end of the section the so called “bass-march” sounds on deep string instruments, and after a short transition the new section begins.



Reexposition /This is the fourth section./


It begins with the melody of Gy-1. The whole exposition is not repeated, only its core. Compare the lines in the flow chart. The sounding is richer, the motif-weaving is more complex, more artistic; in its whole the music is extremely potent.



Coda (fifth section)


Preparatory musical section introduces the free version of Gy-2, then the motif of the funeral march’s consequent part prepares the conclusion of the coda.

Gy-1 starts again, but its melody is interrupted several times before it reaches the end (it is like speech on a voice choked with sobbing). Finally, as a last painful sigh, the whole orchestra concludes the fifth section and the movement.



III. movement


Movement form: Scherzo

Tempo designation: Allegro vivace, time signature: 3/4


A./ The scherzo’s theme consists of two short musical parts.

The first, a murmuring sound on violins is the introduction.

The murmuring turns into folk-like dance, which is the second part of the theme.

After the scherzotheme ends, it is repeated. Then a new melody and theme sounds.

The scherzo’s music consists of this theme and the development of its motifs. Its attributes are: amusing, cheerful, happy tuned, but also energetic.


B./ The middle part is the trio. It has a lyrical tone and it sounds on horns. It consists of a single melody. The development is similar to the one in the scherzo.


A./ In the third part of the scherzo the scherzotheme returns. We hear the same as what we heard in the first part, only shorter, and concluded by a coda.



IV. movement


Movement form: it cannot be precisely defined as there is no first, second and closing theme in it; it builds on a single, rhythmic melody and its bass.

Notation: main melodyD; bass melody B.

The form – if it has to be described – would be: “freely built paired variants”. writes Dénes Bartha in his book titled: Beethoven kilenc szimfóniája.


Tempo designation: Allegro molto, time signature: 2/4

Musical material: the main melody and mainly the variants of the bass-melody.


The movements introductory music lacks melody, but is quite energetic, also theatrical. After the introduction the bass-melody sounds on deep string instruments (here, it can be heard the clearest!), which is repeated instantly, then during the short conclusion forte chords sound.


Right after we hear the first variant of the bass motif, with a counterpoint on violins; this short section is repeated, then the already heard conclusion follows..


Then comes the bass-motif’s another, second variant, which again comes with a counterpoint; this section is also short and is also repeated. After, again the already heard conclusion follows.

Pay attention to how the conclusions – both in tone and dynamics – fit into the theme and variations!


Next, the main melody with its slightly dance-like rhythm sounds for the first time, then it is repeated, and at the same time evolves into its full form on whole orchestra. The conclusion follows.


After a transition we reach the third version of the counter-themed bass-melody, which is in fugato development; then the free variation of the main melody follows, twice.


After another transition, a variation of the bass-melody follows, that may sound to our ears as familiar, reminiscent of recruiting music and rhythm – it is concluded.


Next, we hear the main melody on flute, then some motivic material; then the bass-melody’s mirror version sounds (this is its fifth variation), to which quick violin passages give a counterpoint.

It is soon accompanied by the main melody’s variant. The method of development is double fugue. The music becomes richer, it reaches its dynamic climax, and then a long held fermata marks the end of the section.


After this the main melody’s majestically slow, lyrical variation follows. This development is extremely intimate, full of emotions, which is repeated on strings with richer orchestration. Then another variation of the main melody sounds, which is different in its rhythm from the ones before, and it is repeated.


Afterwards, Beethoven sounds the main motif on the whole orchestra, and with the glorious, reverberation of the horns elevates it to the rank of hymns as well as to the movement’s climax.


After this some motivic material follows, the orchestra goes silent. A new motif sounds on the oboe and the violins, then the sounding gradually becomes more powerful and the music reaches a dissonant climax.


Then we hear the silent conversation of the violins and wind instruments which prepares the conclusion of the movement: the volume gradually becomes lower, we can barely hear it in the end, when the closing orchestral chords begin with full force.


I n  w o r d s


The symphony’s message is more than the greatness of a single man; it is not about “a single person’s life”, it is not in memory of one man but it carries universal thoughts for the audience; and this is true for each movement.

Think about how each movement of the symphony has its own characteristics, thus they are different both in their nature and their music and they cannot be reconciled with “a single person’s” personality. It is important to pay attention to the movement’s tempo designation, e.g. I. movement: Allegro con brio; II. movement Marcia funebre etc.


This music is for and about the constantly struggling, constantly living man. The struggling man for whom the ethics and his own consciousness orders that each and every act should serve democracy, progress, and the freedom of his fellow man the best.


For now we should be satisfied with the meaning of the word eroica: heroic symphony, “… the hymn of heroism and heroic behavior” – writes Professor Dénes Bartha.


Music critics denominated two of Michalengelo’s sculptures to describe the mood of the I. and II. movement.

The I. movement: David, the biblical hero who defeated; the II. movement: Pieta.


(pieta – Italian word, meaning: pain – this is how sculptures representing Virgin Mary’s grief upon holding Christ after taken off of the cross are called. Michelangelo created three such compositions.)



I. movement  (David)


The movement is about the struggling man – homo luctator –, his heroism, and heroic behavior; about the will to fight, about human willpower and about standing one’s ground; about the victory of life’s true values, at the end of the movement, in the coda. Fundamentally it is about, however, that all things in line must be fought for: for justice, for freedom, for democracy, for the success of human rights, for prosperity, and perhaps for happiness as well. There was a need to fight in Beethoven’s time, and there is a need to fight today. Many claim: life is about struggling. The “struggling man” is expressed the best in the elaboration section.


It is safe to state: the content and message of the music is topical and true today as it was when it was composed. This is why it does not diminish as time passes, and this is why it is valid for the man of today just as it was valid two hundred years ago.


Struggling man is often faced with disappointment, failure, lack of understanding; yet he faces each challenge for the noble and just cause; he is diverted by no obstacle. This is also included in the first movement’s music and message.


What does the main theme’s variant, confirming answer mean at the end of the movement? The first movement’s melody that sounds for the first time in the exposition – let us call it first variant – is downward moving at the end; it emanates a hopeless, pessimist mood.


The same melody, main theme in the coda – let us call it confirming variant –, although only because of one note difference it gains new meaning. This melody is full of power; it emanates a hopeful, optimistic mood. It advocates that human effort and struggling always have their meaning, their result. The struggling man gains his fellow men’s respect and appreciation.

See also: PowerPoint page #11!



The second movement  (pieta)


Musical content: slow, solemn funeral march. It is about grief and pain. We could ask: Is there a person who was never touched by the feeling of grief and pain upon losing a close or loved fellow man? There is only one answer: NO!


Musicologist still cannot precisely determine whose death inspired Beethoven’s staggering, mournful music. Napoleon, who was alive upon the composition of the symphony, cannot be considered. As we all know he died in 1817 on Saint Helena after seven years of confinement. /The symphony was composed in 1802./


Death is the mutual fate of mankind; it means the end of earthly life. The body comes to nothing, it is nature’s law, but something remains. We, people living today claim: No man ceases to be with the last day of his life; the values of his life live on, they surpass the date of his passing.  


Something new begins, depending on how much one did or could have done for it. The acts of “Great” kings’ reign are still spoken of even after thousands of years.

Napoleon lives on among the greatest of  history and military science.

Beethoven was and remains the uncrowned lord of music.

And what they have achieved through their life’s heroic battles are still present and still impress; not only on the anniversaries of their commemoration.


During the analysis I mentioned that the funeral march-1Gy1 is about feelings of grief and pain, while funeral march-2 Gy2 – emphasizes the uplifting feeling of power gained from grief itself; it raises our determination to keep on living.


Bence Szabolcsi musicologist wrote about this movement, more precisely about its message: “…even this terse grief is full of life and power. Thus only those mourn who really feel life’s taste, who knows he is stronger than death.”

And maybe it is also about something we call apotheosis.  



Third movement


Beethoven uses the term scherzo even in the II. symphony. He firmly refuses the minuet’s mood reminiscent of dancing, which he did not find to be worthy for classical symphonies.

For him the scherzo is carefree happiness, joy, serenity, the closest to our human nature, just like dance itself.


There were some who suggested that only the I. and II. movement shall be played from the symphony. Some suggested that the III. and II. movement should be transposed, as the scherzo’s mood aesthetically collides with the mood of grief.


Beethoven did not think it this way; he placed the scherzo right after the sounds of grief. Why? We cannot be sure.

My opinion is: we are human, we are touched by happiness and sorrow equally. A költő is így vall e kérdésben: „Mindig szép az élet, ha simogat, ha sújt./Ma véresre korbácsol, de holnap tán balzsamot nyújt.”

The philosopher of the era thought similarly when he discussed that grief should also be moderate, as excessive sorrow turns against life, and so it is unnatural.


Today it is completely accepted within the symphony for the mood of grief to be succeeded by the scherzo. The contradiction is only apparent; the moods don’t disharmonize, as the joy, happiness after grief is part of life’s reality.



Fourth movement


Just like in the “Venetian era” of opera, where the audience expected the events of the opera to “lieto fine” – end happily, it became a practice in symphonies as well that the concluding movement cannot be dramatic, its music cannot be similar to that of the previous movements; it has to be something different. And this difference is seen in that the final movement is the release in mood of the previous three. We could say: happy day.


This fourth movement is a fine example of this, since it adapts to the artistic principles of the era, as well as to the symphony’s requirements of content and structure. It does not carry a deep message, but concludes the symphony in a carefree way.


Many interpret that in this movement Prometheus, the mythological hero is set to music. Beethoven composed the ballet entitled The Creatures of Prometheus in 1801, which he called “heroic, allegorical ballet”. (Allegory).


Bekker, Paul (1882-1937) German composer and critic believed that in the eyes of Beethoven the torch-carrier Prometheus is also a hero, the hero of light, culture and enlightenment. We can almost be sure that Beethoven thought of Prometheus “the hero” as someone close to his personality and to the message of his music.     



Prometheus gr - a.m. prudent, foreseeing, caring


A character of Greek mythology, who to help and please mankind stole the fire from Mount Olympus, for which Zeus punished him; he is chained to Caucasus Mountain, where a vulture continuously rips out his constantly renewing liver.


Aeschylus, Greek dramatist wrote a trilogy, the first part of which is Prometheus Bound, where he is described as a hero and martyr of culture, who is the great benefactor of mankind.  

Pieces of the fine arts were fond of to depicting his punishment and release.

The mythological story is more complex and there are several other content in it; I only tried to grasp its core..

                            (Révai Lexikon, volume XV., p. 714., 1922.)  




allegory greek-latin – the literary meaning is not relevant here: art: the depiction of a moral ideal, the personification of abstract notions in a perceptible way

 < vissza  


dolce  it – softly, gently < vissza  


heroic greek-latin – heroic, brave


hérosz greek-latin – 1./ in Greek mythology: demigod; 2./ hero


heroism (greek: “hero”): aesthetic quality; a form of majesty, that manifests through a deed that requires moral or physical strength, heroism, tenacity, self-denial or self-sacrifice.

In music we call the extremely elevated, dynamic and dominant musical theme heroic.


According to József Szigeti: “…the tragic hero always goes through the most difficult of conflicts, and while nearing the borders of tragedy he advances towards victory or defeat; whether he achieves victory or fails, his figure is radiant with glory.”


József Szigeti (1921 –, philosopher, aesthete,

places the aesthetic qualities in the sectors of this chart as follows:




potent english(<latin) 1. suggesting, stimulative 2. compelling, irresistible in effect, has the force to make sy believe < vissza


All these questions can be read and studied further in the Lexicon of Aesthetics.