Ludwig van Beethoven's Third Symphony in E-flat-major, opus 55, sub-titled the Eroica Symphony (Heroic Symphony), has four movements:
  1. Allegro con brio, running time 14:44
  2. Marcia funebre, Adagio assai, running time 17:05
  3. Scherzo, Allegro vivace, running time 5:44
  4. Finale, Allegro molto, running time 12:20
This symphony premiered on April 7, 1805 in Vienna. It was originally dedicated as Sinfonia grande, intitolata Bonparte to Napoleon Bonaparte, although Beethoven retracted that dedication when Napoleon declared himself emperor. Napoleon never actually heard it played (and perhaps was unaware of its original dedication).

This symphony was written between 1803 and 1804, making it the first symphony after Beethoven went deaf. The most famous passage of Eroica is the Funeral March of the second movement.


Running times are from Deutsche Grammophon's recording of the Berliner Philharmonker, directed by Herbert von Karajan.

I think the Eroica is the greatest musical work ever created. Beethoven's first two symphony are rather boring, in my opinion; I am sure most music lovers will agree that the first two Beethoven symphonies are less interesting than the last symphonies of Mozart (particularly 40 and 41). What a shock to the music world Beethoven's third must have been. I recall that many listeners at the Eroica's introduction found the work too long and too weighty--it's twice the average length of classical symphonies by Haydn and Mozart. Certainly it has an intensity that Mozart never matched, although perhaps Bach did in works like his Mass in B Minor.

The Eroica was the first of a string of astonishing symphonies by Beethoven, including the extremely famous fifth and ninth symphonies (the "great" and the "choral"). But I don't think any were as consistently gorgeous as the third. In a letter about the third symphony, Beethoven wrote that it was his best work thus far and that "I think heaven and earth must tremble before us when it is performed." This was Beethoven's favorite symphony until his ninth. While the ninth may be "better," the third definitely had a more drastic impact on the evolution of the symphony, making it the most important and dramatic musical form in the 19th century, and paving the way for great symphonic writers such as Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler.

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