“I shall strive if possible to set Fate at defiance, although there must be moments in my life when I cannot fail to be the most unhappy of God’s creatures” (Ludwig van Beethoven, letter to a friend)

Beethoven’s Third, “Heroic” symphony is radically new both in terms of its duration (almost one hour!) and for stylistics – this is a symphony written for heroes and about heroes. Originally the symphony was dedicated to Napoleon Buonaparte, the man whom the entire Europe laid their hopes upon at the dawn of his ruling, and whom Beethoven, a revolutionary and a dreamer, admired deeply. On hearing the news of Napoleon’s coronation, the composer, according to eye-witnesses, was enraged and crossed the name of the dictator out of the title page of the symphony, tearing up that paper. The name of Napoleon vanished, but the idea of a hero starting to fight injustice and inevitably suffering losses, remains and holds the symphony together like a stem: the first part has pathetics of struggle, and the second part is a funeral march: there is no heroism without a victim.

On the other hand, the Third symphony to a great extent mirrors the state of mind of the composer; it is a composition about struggle and victory of a man over circumstances. The 32-year-old successful musician at the height of his glory writes it amid the increasing deafness bouts and unhappy romance with Juliette Guicciardi (it is her whom the Moonlight sonata is dedicated to). Two hard blows of Fate dealt together would of course be a reason to fall into despair and start grieving, but not the reason to submit. Notwithstanding any blows of destiny one should not forget about the higher purpose of a man, about the divine sparkle in his soul. Against all odds, one should not surrender – and Beethoven writes the Third symphony. By the way, the composer finally dedicated it to his close friend and benefactor prince von Lobkowitz who faithfully supported the composer in difficult times.

Digital Orchestra by Golikov performs the Third symphony in the walls of Lutheran church of St. Anna (Annenkirche) in the center of St. Petersburg. The building constructed in the late 17th century under the project of Yuri Felten boasts harmonic proportions and outstanding acoustics. Its interior is the record of a hard lot which befell on Annenkirche throughout the 20th century: this building hosted a warehouse, a film theater, and in 2002 it took fire. Today Annenkirche perfectly combines the functions of church and cultural center with exhibitions, lectures and excursions, proving with its very existence the main theory of the Third symphony: never surrender!

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony No. 3 E-flat major, op. 55 (1804)

  1. Allegro con brio
  2. Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
  3. Scherzo: Allegro vivace
  4. Finale: Allegro molto

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What a joy!

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