Beethoven’s Symphony no. 3 (Eroica) is a “watershed work” (in the words of musicologist Joseph Kerman), not only in Beethoven’s own stylistic development, but in the history of the symphony overall. Composed in Beethoven’s early thirties, as he was first coming to terms with his deafness and much of Europe was embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars, the Eroica uses traditional musical forms in a new way to suggest a dramatic narrative of heroism, freedom, and overcoming. This lecture explains what made Beethoven’s Eroica different from other symphonies of the time, and considers what inspired him to write one of his most triumphant works.
The speaker, Dr. Erica Buurman, is Director of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies and Assistant Professor in Music at San Jose State University. From 2013 to 2019 she was on the music faculty at Canterbury Christ Church University (UK). She is editor of the Beethoven Journal, and her publications include chapters in the Cambridge Companion to the Eroica Symphony and the forthcoming Beethoven in Context. She is currently writing a book about social dance music in Beethoven’s Vienna.