Around 1801-02 Beethoven commented to the violinist Wenzel Krumpholz, "I am not very satisfied with my work thus far. From this day on I shall forge a new path.” The Eroica marks the beginning of that 'new path' and its creation brought about a sudden and dramatic advance in symphonic expression. The style and structure of the Eroica would not only influence Beethoven's subsequent symphonies but those of Brahms, Dvorák and Schumann as well . Yet there is a clear path from Haydn and Mozart to this Grand Sinfonie. The building blocks from which the Eroica was derived were fundamental to Viennese classicism. A common misconception is that Beethoven cast aside the tenets of his predecessors and inaugurated Romanticism. In truth, Beethoven's heroic style, of which the Eroica is the standard bearer, is a bold extension of 18th century practice.
When the Eroica first appeared, one of the criticisms leveled at it was it's "colossal piling of ideas". Among the "ideas" and methods that distinguish the Eroica from its forerunners is the bold use of harmony, ambiguous meters, rhythmic emphasis, liberal use of counterpoint and increasing the role of the winds, all within an architecture that stresses expansion and shifting of balance.
Our examination of the Eroicas first movement will begin by considering it's sheer size. In a single move, Beethoven doubled the duration of all previous examples, including his own. Using Mozart's last three symphonies as a model and averaging their respective lengths (in measures) the difference in overall length is readily apparent.
|Beethoven has not only expanded the sonata form as a whole but more importantly, two sections previously glossed over, the development section and coda, have been reapportioned to equivalent scope.|