As legend tells it, when Beethoven learned that Napoleon had declared himself emperor, he tore the title page of his latest symphony to shreds. The hotheaded composer had originally intended to call it “Bonaparte,” but now he felt that the honoree had absolutely betrayed the ideals of the French Revolution. We can be grateful that he left the music unchanged, thereby bequeathing an enduring masterpiece to posterity – as the latest contribution to our Bonn Beethoven series demonstrates. This compelling new recording of the Eroica displays a genuinely heroic spirit, and the conductor Stefan Blunier leads the conquest of the work’s vast dimensions with gripping orchestral drama.
This symphony lasting practically an hour exceeded the limits of all that had gone before it. Since Beethoven himself was aware of its boldness, he recommended that his work be included toward the beginning of concert programs – when the audience was still bright and chipper. In the present case a completely unnecessary cautionary measure since with the Beethoven Orchestra of Bonn there is never a dull moment! The musical course of events powerfully unfolds on its way from the highly animated opening motif through the deep despair of the funeral dirge and the eerie and wild scherzo with its famous hunting fanfares in the trio to the exuberant finale with so much energy that it simply does not want to stop.
This new recording’s carefully designed program also lends it magnetic appeal: Stefan Blunier complements the popular Eroica with König Stephan and Die Weihe des Hauses, two very rarely heard overtures. It is difficult to understand why these two masterpieces are hardly ever performed in the concert hall – especially since they roused the premiere audiences to storms of endless applause when they were presented in conjunction with stage performances.
For heroes, only the best! The Eroica too has of course been produced in the finest SACD quality. The carefully balanced 3-D sound makes all our listening wishes come true: freshly polished, the work shines with sparkling brilliance – and whose heart can fail to feel the heroic beat?