Eroica (2003)

by Tom Ingram

Genre Musical; Historical
People Ian Hart; Leo Bill; Jack Davenport; Tim Pigott-Smith; Ludwig van Beethoven m.
/10 6

Ludwig van Beethoven (Hart) conducts the private premiere of his Symphony no. 3 in E-flat Major (“Eroica”) for an audience of Viennese nobles (Davenport, Pigott-Smith, et al) and Joseph Haydn (Frank Finlay). Music performed by the Orchestre R√©volutionnaire et Romantique.

A very silly BBC historical drama about a watershed event in musical history. Its thin plot is little more than an excuse to show a performance of the Beethoven symphony by a leading British period orchestra. The performance itself is not bad, but nothing to write home about. The actors are obviously slumming for a paycheque; the only one with a role of significance is Ian Hart as Beethoven. Again, he’s good, but not great. There are a few laboured points, like the orchestra “discovering” the concepts of syncopated accents and sforzandi, that are just hilarious.

There have been many biopics of classical composers, but only Amadeus has ever achieved any success, and with good reason. It’s the only one willing to depart from the facts where necessary, to pore over history in search of a human drama and, if necessary, create one. The connection to period orchestras is telling: Eroica tells a story that is more or less historically correct (though not without a couple howlers), but soulless and dead. If you’re really interested in the movie, you might as well watch it because it’s short and freely available on Youtube. If you just want to get to know Beethoven’s third symphony, my suggestion is that you find the recording by Daniel Barenboim with the Staatskapelle Dresden and just give it a listen.

1h23m; 2003; Colour