Symphony No. 3 in E flat, "Eroica", Op.55 - Beethoven
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Conducted by Felix Weingartner
Recorded 22nd and 23rd May, 1936
ssued as UK Columbia LX.532-537
Matrix numbers CHAX 112-123, Takes 2, 2, 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2
Transfer and Natural Sound remastering by Andrew Rose, March 2007
This XR-remastered recording is available in mono and Ambient Stereo. For more information on Ambient Stereo click here.
"Very impressive... The sound...has depth and vividness that allows you to appreciate the wonderful attention to the work's pacing and, particularly, shading that Weingartner brings."
Gramophone, June 2007 - a Gramophone Essential Download
Felix Weingartner was the first conductor to record all nine of Beethoven's symphonies, and had been steeped in the tradition for many years by the time he came to cut the twelve sides which comprise this fabulous 1936 recording.
As with a number of other classic recordings of Beethoven there have been numerous transfers and restorations of these recordings. However, with the use of a wonderful set of near-mint Columbia 78s to work on, kindly donated to Pristine Audio for this purpose, and the application of the Pristine Audio Natural Sound technique, it has been possible to take this already superb recording a great step further forward.
With the elimination of a harsh upper register and the evening out of some minor errors in the frequency response we finally hear the true majesty of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and the massive reverberation of the recording hall. This truly in an heroic 'Eroica'!
The Symphony No. 3 in E flat major (Op. 55) by Ludwig van Beethoven (known as the Eroica—Italian for "Heroic") is a work sometimes cited as the beginning of musical Romanticism and the end of the Classical Era.
Beethoven originally dedicated it to Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven admired the ideals of the French Revolution, and Napoleon as their embodiment, but Beethoven was so disgusted when Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of the French in May 1804, that he went to the table where the completed score lay, took hold of the title-page and scratched the name Bonaparte out so violently that he created a hole in the paper (see picture). He later changed the title to Sinfonia eroica, composta per festeggiare il sovvenire d'un grand'uomo (Heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man). His assistant Ferdinand Ries tells the story in his biography of Beethoven, exaggerating it:
In writing this symphony Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he was First Consul. At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him and compared him to the greatest consuls of ancient Rome. Not only I, but many of Beethoven's closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word "Buonaparte" inscribed at the very top of the title-page and "Luigi van Beethoven" at the very bottom. ...I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, "So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!" Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page had to be re-copied and it was only now that the symphony received the title "Sinfonia eroica."
It is also believed that "Eroica" was finally dedicated to Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, who later became Charles XIV of Sweden, after Beethoven was disappointed in Napoleon.
Beethoven wrote most of the symphony in late 1803 and completed it in early 1804. The symphony was premiered privately in summer 1804 in Count Lobkowitz's castle Eisenberg. The first public performance was given in Vienna's Theater an der Wien on April 7, 1805 with the composer conducting.
REVIEW of Beethoven: Symphony #3 “Eroica”
Vienna Philharmonic, Felix Weingartner (1936)
Sometime in the early 1890’s, Brahms was spending some time at the Meiningen court. He had a very high opinion of the orchestra there and had conducted the premieres of some of his own works with the orchestra on occasion as well as appearing as soloist. He noted that Felix Weingartner, the orchestra’s permanent conductor, was giving a concert with the first half devoted to Berlioz and the second half comprising only Brahms’ Second Symphony. Brahms ran into Weingartner during the afternoon and told him with a bit of sarcasm, as was his wont, that he hoped Weingartner would have a little energy left for his work after all that Berlioz. Weingartner, about 30, very handsome, self-confident, and of the minor nobility, assured Brahms that his finest efforts would be reserved for the symphony.
Brahms attended the performance and afterwards repaired to the local café with his coterie. Weingartner did likewise. Brahms stood up and invited Weingartner over for a drink, something he almost never did. One must assume that his reaction to the performance was very positive.
The characteristics of self-assurance and Apollonian nobility informed everything that Weingartner did. I have always felt that the pinnacle of Eroica performance was eternally contended for by Toscanini (1938, NBC) and Furtwangler (1952, Berlin). But based on Pristine Audio’s brilliant reprocessing, Weingartner’s must be considered for some space on that crag.
Weingartner is never as taut or propulsive as Toscanini, but there is more light and shade. There is an occasional moment where Toscanini seems like a demented PacMan, running down the track, chewing up notes and spitting out music. Weingartner does not achieve the elemental, primordial Wagnerian fury that Furtwangler does in the funeral march, but his Scherzo is delightfully balanced and the horns are superb. There is not so much incident in Weingartner’s Eroica, but he knows where the real climaxes are.
A beautiful example is just before the recapitulation in the first movement: the development is winding down suspensefully; we are anticipating the recapitulation; and a single horn comes in with the main theme in what seems to be a bar prematurely. Following which the whole orchestra crashes in with the two chords which are the signature of the symphony. Ferdinand Ries, Beethoven’s pupil excoriated the horn player for this “error”, after which Beethoven gave him a box on the ear. This is how Beethoven wrote it. Toscanini passes it like a country station not on his route. Furtwangler does a good job, but Weingartner makes it seem right because he really screws up the suspense.
In truth, the really magnificent thing about this recording is the SOUND. Pristine Audio has removed the hum and the distortion; they have somehow returned missing frequencies and harmonics to the dumb shellacs of 1936. The result is not a 2007 stereo or SACD, but the closest we shall now get to that confident man who was not intimidated by Brahms and thought he knew how Beethoven’s greatest symphony ought to go.