Beethoven's Eroica is filled with drama; even its creation had theatrical moments.
Beethoven originally named the Symphony Bonaparte after Napoleon, designing the piece as a memorial to the heroic achievements of a ruler who he hoped would go on to inspire Europe to a humanist, libertarian, egalitarian revolution. However, upon learning from a friend that Napoleon had styled himself Emperor in May 1804 Beethoven declared him - “a tyrant”, who “will think himself superior to all men”, scrawling out the original title.
At its premiere it caused quite a stir, leaving critics up in arms. There’s a moment in this symphony which made fellow composer Hector Berlioz splutter with indignation that “if that was really what Beethoven wanted … it must be admitted that this whim is an absurdity”. It was too much for some concert goers with one reportedly yelling out, "I'll give another Kreutzer if it will just stop." However the genius of this piece was realised and its dramatic flair is recognised even today with uses in popular culture, including a close up of the record in Hitchcock's film Psycho.
"In Hitchcock's films, the most innocuous object can rear up threateningly. What could possibly be sinister about the record of Beethoven's Eroica, which Vera Miles finds on a gramophone turntable during her investigation of the Bates house?" Peter Conrad
Find out what all the fuss was about on Friday 17 November as the BBC Scottish are led by Ilan Volkov in an explosive redition of Beethoven’s Eroica.