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thekossack
02-07-2001, 04:34 PM
I am currently doing research on the Napoleonic period, and have learned that Beethoven was deeply affected by Bonaparte, both in terms of the man himself, and his effect on Europe.

I am wondering if anyone knows some specifics on exactly what Beethoven's opinion was Bonaparte...admirer or detractor? Are there quotes of Beethoven's thoughts on this subject? Did he compose any pieces dedicated to Bonaparte, or the battles, political events, or other direct elements of Bonaparte's dramatic story? Any suggestions would be appreciated.


[This message has been edited by thekossack (edited 02-07-2001).]

Peter
02-07-2001, 04:44 PM
Beethoven very much admired Bonaparte prior to his crowning himself Emperor - it was this act that led Beethoven to scratch out the dedication to Napoleon of his 3rd Symphony 'Eroica'. From then on Beethoven regarded Bonaparte as a tyrant.

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'Man know thyself'

Joy
02-07-2001, 11:03 PM
Beethoven also was a fair man. And even though he despised Napoleon, he was fair enough to say he admired his military genius.
Joy

euphony131
02-08-2001, 09:17 AM
Originally posted by thekossack:
I am wondering if anyone knows some specifics on exactly what Beethoven's opinion was Bonaparte...admirer or detractor? Are there quotes of Beethoven's thoughts on this subject? Did he compose any pieces dedicated to Bonaparte, or the battles, political events, or other direct elements of Bonaparte's dramatic story?



If you're doing research on the Napoleonic Period than you have got to see the 4-hour "Napoleon" video complete with re-inactments by David Grubin. Better yet, just buy it from Amazon at:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00004ZB6O/qid=981619926/sr=2-1/ref=sc_v_1/103-5164317-4619008

It is that good! It even features a cameo appearance by -- you guessed it -- Beethoven!

Beethoven was hugely enamored of Napoleon -- I suppose he saw a lot of himself in that daring, tempestuous Revolutionary, I believe they were also only a year apart in age. But, of course, when Napoleon made himself "Emperor of France" well, the show was over. Beethoven was quoted as saying to the effect: "He, too, then, is nothing better than an ordinary man! Now he will trample on all human rights only to humor his ambition; he will place himself above all others -- become a tyrant!" This line is also given in the "Napoleon" video.

But I've also read that even after this Beethoven continued to have ambivalent feelings about the man, sometimes giving a backhanded compliment or even pointing out some redeeming characteristic. Then again, Napoleon was not an easy guy to classify -- simultaneously an equal rights activist and dictator, ex. -- he abolished discrimation against Jews, advocated a fair code of law, but thought nothing of going into Spain and committing actrocities against civilians. Napoleon -- a dichotomy personified or just hypocrisy? Hmmm... anyway a very controversial character and an example of how the best of intentions are laid to waste by personal ambition.

Incidentally, when Napoleon passed away on St. Helena and Beethoven got wind of it, he reportedly stated sarcastically, "Well, I have already written his Requiem" (meaning the 3rd symphony he'd originally dedicated to him years ago). Here, it's important to remember that in 1809, Napoleon's forces besieged and bombarded Vienna where B. was living so B. saw firsthand the devastions wrought by Napoleon. So, apparently, despite his ambivalency, B. still harbored bad feelings about the siege.

Here's some further (almost eerie) similarities between them: both were short, hot-tempered, and seemingly out of place where they were, Napoleon a Corsican in Paris, Beethoven a provincial German in Vienna, both were revolutionary in their ideas and brazen enough to make almost anything happen. Of course that's were it ends. B. was the consummate Artist while Napoleon fell victim to a Lust for Power. Another controversy revolves around Hitler and Napoleon and their similarities, but that's a WHOLE other story...

Anyway, get the video, it is awesome, and something definitely worth repeated viewing, it even features a portion of B's 3rd symphony for background music and I believe I detected another B. piece as well, but can't remember.

Peter
02-08-2001, 09:54 AM
That's very useful Euphony - Napoleon also suffers like Beethoven from a lack of decent films. Am I right in thinking Marlon Brando played him once ? - I know whoever it was, it was dreadful!

Back to the original question, I think Beethoven also said that if he knew as much about War as he did music, he would beat Napoleon easily.

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'Man know thyself'