Beethoven originally dedicated this symphony to Napoleon, whom he saw as the champion of the common man, a hero pursuing the ideals of the French Revolution: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. However, upon hearing that Napoleon had declared himself emperor, Beethoven became furious and tore up the title page containing the dedication. The "Eroica" marks one of the turning points in music history, heralding a new age in symphonic style. Prior to this work, Beethoven had been a composer with roots in the 18th century. The Third Symphony's length and the nature of its thematic material, emotional depth, range and harmonic daring set it apart from any earlier symphonic work.
This recording is part of Bernstein's complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra live in Vienna. The series won the Ace Award, the U.S. Cable TV Association's top award for outstanding quality and entertainment value. Bernstein's impassioned renderings of Beethoven move audiences in a unique way. "Beethoven has always meant universality to me, ever since my early adolescence, when I first heard that unforgettable cry of 'Brüder!'. From that moment on, every... symphony came to mean heart-to-heart communication, travelling satellite-fashion via the cosmos itself. I offer [this cycle] to all music-loving ears as a testament of faith and of my most profound reactions to this greatest of all composers." (Leonard Bernstein, 1980)