An excerpt from a feature for issue 24 of The New European.
Amidst the drama and dismay of 2016 it is poignant that a BBC Music Magazine survey of the world’s leading conductors this autumn voted Beethoven’s revolutionary Eroica as the greatest symphony of all time.
The 1803 symphony, Beethoven’s third, charged the classical tradition with a new emotional expressiveness, and for more than two centuries has stood as a defiant declaration of the Enlightenment principles of liberty, equality and reason that inspired the French Revolution.
The first symphony of the Romantic era, the Eroica took high music out of the aristocratic salon and into the public concert hall. But like Beethoven’s Ninth, runner-up in the BBC survey, the Third has been enshrined as a forbidding monument of European culture, its authority used to serve many agendas.