Eroica and more | Music | DW | 13.01.2021
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Music

Eroica and more

Who could have possibly written a better soundtrack to heroism than Ludwig van Beethoven in his Eroica Symphony? We'll hear it, and similar music, in these two Concert Hours.

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Eroica part one

Your ticket to the German classical music festival scene: Concert Hour has the picks of the season — two hours of music updated regularly.

Along with host Rick Fulker, the musicians themselves are on hand to give their insights into the events and the music.

In this and the coming weeks, we visit the Schwetzingen Festival, which took place this time in October and where the focus was on Ludwig van Beethoven in the 250th year after his birth.

Listen to audio 54:59

Concert Hour: Eroica part two

Part one:

Dating from 1797, Wranitzky's Grand Symphony Characteristic of Peace with French Republic is the first known piece of music to be forbidden in Vienna due to its political content, axed just before the premiere. In aristocratic circles in Vienna, memories were still fresh of beheaded royalty in France in the wake of the French Revolution. Austria had been forced into peace with the French, and Wranitzky's music sounded Francophile and seemed to put the enemy in a good light.

But as Bernhard Forck, concertmaster of the Academy of Early Music Berlin explains, Wranitzky's Grand Symphony is a good companion piece for  Beethoven's Eroica: "Like the Eroica, it has a funeral march. The drums sound out a big battle, so this symphony tells of war. But also of the ambivalent zeitgeist in Vienna. People were enthused about the French Revolution at first, but that feeling changed when Napoleon's troops occupied the Rhineland, and it was unclear what would happen in Vienna."

Other composers such as Johann Wilhelm Wilms wrote pieces based on works by Paul Wranitzky, such as Wilms' Variations on an Ariette from Paul Wranitzky's opera "Oberon." 

Explaining the idea behind this program, Bernhard Forck said, "It's amusing to look at Beethoven's letters, where he writes to his publisher saying: 'Send me everything you've got, starting with Bach and his sons.' It was very important to him to be schooled in the old masters and works by his contemporaries." One composer whom Beethoven particularly venerated was Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

Paul Wranitzky

Grand Symphony characteristic of peace with French Republic in C Minor, op. 31  
Performed by:
Academy of Early Music Berlin  
Bernhard Forck, concertmaster
Recorded by Southwest German Radio Stuttgart in the Rococo Hall of Schwetzingen Palace on October 29, 2020

Johann Wilhelm Wilms
Ariette from Paul Wranitzky's opera Oberon  
Performed by:
Ronald Brautigam, fortepiano
Recorded by Deutsche Welle (DW) in La Redoute, Bonn on September 29, 2017

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach 
Harpsichord Concerto in C Major, Wq 20, 2nd and 3rd movements (excerpt)

Performed by:
Raphael Alpermann, harpsichord 
Academy of Early Music Berlin 
On Harmonia mundi HMC 901711 

Part two:

The word "Eroica" sounds like "heroic," which is no coincidence — and Beethoven's choice of the word has to do with Napoleon Bonaparte, who ignited the imagination of a generation — Beethoven's generation.

Beethoven's third symphony, the Eroica, is big in every way — not only in length, but also in terms of ideas.

A picture of Mozart as a child playing the piano at a concert in 1763

A picture of Mozart as a child playing the piano at a concert in 1763

 

Yet, says Bernhard Forck, concertmaster of the Academy of Early Music Berlin, there's one aspect of the Eroica that's surprisingly small: "When we were in Vienna two years ago we went on an exciting city tour and stopped at the places where Beethoven's works premiered — including the Eroica Hall in Lobkowitz Palace. Very interesting: The room is so small you think you could hardly fit an orchestra in it, much less an audience too. So how big an orchestra could it have been? Obviously it must have been a very, very small one — which you wouldn't normally think with a work like the Eroica."   

The Academy of Early Music Berlin precedes its performance of the Eroica with a brief intrada by Mozart with a strikingly similar theme.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
Symphony in E-flat Major, Wq 179, 3rd movement (excerpt)
Performed by:
Academy of Early Music Berlin 
On Harmonia mundi HMC 901711 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Intrada from the Singspiel Bastien und Bastienne, K. 46b/ K. 50  

Ludwig van Beethoven  
Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, op. 55 (Eroica)  
Performed by:
Academy of Early Music Berlin  
Bernhard Forck, concertmaster
Recorded by Southwest German Radio Stuttgart in the Rococo Hall of Schwetzingen Palace on October 29, 2020