Beethoven's Symphony no. 3

The Eroica

Lobkowicz Palace, January 9, 2020

At his palace in central Vienna, Prince Lobkowicz offered regular concerts with his own house musicians and even some Imperial players hired to form a full orchestra. The first rehearsals and private performances of the Beethoven's Symphony no. 3 took place in May or June 1804 at the Lobkowicz Palace. That October, after private performances of the new symphony at his Bohemian estates, Prince Lobkowicz made two large payments to Beethoven, which paid for the exclusive rights for a certain period and secured the dedication of this work, as well as for the Triple Concerto.

The parts of the symphony in this exhibition, whose many markings, stained corners, and edges indicate much use, were printed in October 1806 and represent the very first edition of the work to be published. This earliest version of the first edition contains handwritten corrections made by Beethoven and the publisher, who no doubt wished to ensure that the dedicatee had a definitive copy.   

The original title page of the Sinfonia Eroica states that it was composed “per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grand Uomo” (to celebrate the memory of a great man), and is dedicated to “Sua Altezza Serenissima il Principe di Lobkowitz” (His Most Serene Highness Prince Lobkowicz). The identity of the “great man” is a matter of conjecture; was it Napoleon, whom Beethoven admired for a time? Was it Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia, a fine pianist in the Lobkowicz circle who perished on the battlefield in 1806? The answer remains a mystery.