The "Eroica" symphony is one of Beethoven's crowning glories, a colossal work that marks the maturity of classical style even as it lays the foundation for the Age of Romanticism that would follow.
It's the centerpiece of a Utah Symphony concert program with monarchial ascent as its theme, though the work's association with the subject became a grievance to Beethoven.
The composer was an ardent admirer of the egalitarian ideals that influenced the American and French revolutions and saw their embodiment in Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven dedicated his towering Third Symphony to Bonaparte, then scratched out the dedication in disgust after his erstwhile hero was crowned "Emperor of the French" in May 1804.
"This concert is all about coronation," Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer said, noting that the Mozart works on the program, "Overture to La Clemenza di Tito" and the "Coronation" Piano Concerto, adhere to that theme.
"I wanted to stay in this mood with the 'Eroica,' " Fischer said. "Lighter, but in the same style. 'Eroica' was written in adoration to Napoleon Bonaparte. The 'Coronation' concerto is an homage [Mozart played it for the coronation of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II in 1790]. And 'La Clemenza di Tito' was also written for a coronation [when Leopold II became King of Bohemia]."
"It's the only concert of the entire season that is totally dedicated to Classical music," Fischer said, referring to Classical style, the elegant and tasteful music heard in Europe's salons and royal courts around the turn of the 18th century. "It's all about holy respect."
As guest artist for a program thoroughly engrained in the Classical, Fischer engaged Dutch pianist Ronald Brautigam, a leading exponent of the piano's less muscular forerunner, the fortepiano.
Brautigam performs frequently with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and other groups specializing in Classical style. He will perform on piano in Abravanel Hall, bringing to the instrument his expertise in playing Mozart in the style of the composer's day.
"I love Ronald Brautigam's playing," Fischer said. "He is an artist I've performed with regularly, and he has a very light touch for playing Mozart."
Send in the crowns
The Utah Symphony's backward Beethoven cycle reaches Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica").
With • Conductor Thierry Fischer and pianist Ronald Brautigam.
When • Friday, April 6 and Saturday, April 7, 8 p.m.
Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City.
Tickets • $17-$51 ($5 more on performance day), 801-355-ARTS orwww.arttix.org; student discounts available. Season subscribers and those desiring group discounts, call 801-533-NOTE.