Music in Context: Tonality and Form in Western Music - The Composition of Beethoven's 'Eroica'

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The political circumstances preceding the composition of Beethoven's third symphony, 'Eroica', can be said to have dramatically influenced the work and shaped the innovative features utilized by Beethoven in the piece. The piece was originally dedicated to the French First Consul, Napoleon, but this dedication was angrily ripped off by the composer after Napoleon declared himself emperor. These actions are unsurprising, as Beethoven was a fiercely political character, and the events surrounding this period of his life not only changed him irreparably as a composer, but also as a human-being.

Before the composition of the third symphony, Beethoven was in a supremely depressed state, claiming 'I am not contented with my works so far. Henceforth I shall take a new path,' in 1802. During the composition of the symphony, Beethoven was asked to dedicate a symphony to Napoleon. Seeing as this would bring the composer great fame and fortune, and also because thought highly of Napoleon as head of the great Italian army and wished him more peace within the rest of the senate, Beethoven jumped at the chance to dedicate a symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte.

The symphony held the title 'Bonaparte' until completion, in 1804. During this time Beethoven could see that Napoleon's way of doing things was becoming more and more like the divine monarchs that had come before him, what he called the 'republican tragedy'. 'As napoleon gained more and more power, Beethoven became more and more disillusioned with the tyrant.' On the 18th of May, 1804, the senate ratified another constitution under napoleon's command. Within the constitution, the 'government of the Republic' was passed down through a hereditary line of emperor's, Napoleon, of course, being one of them. It was this event that acted as 'the straw that broke the camels back', with Beethoven angrily ripping...