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EROICA The day that changed music forever

Beethoven - Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Opus 55, Eroica

Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique/Sir John Eliot Gardiner

Ian Hart, Tim Pigott-Smith, Claire Skinner, Jack Davenport, Frank Finlay, Fenella Woolgar, Lucy Akhurst, Leo Bill, Peter Hanson, Robert Glenister, Anton Lesser

BBC/Opus Arte OA 0908 D [filmed in the Eroicasaal, Vienna. 16:9 TT: c130 MINS]

This DVD exploring Beethoven's Symphony No 3, the Eroica, takes the form of a private rehearsal/runthrough in Beethoven's patron's Lobkowitz Palace as it might have happened in June 1804, and includes the famous (apocryphal) scene in which Beethoven, having become disenchanted with Napoleon, removes his intended dedication to him after he had styled himself Emperor. It is, inevitably, something of a fictional scene, and on the box cover-back (only) it is credited to Nick Dear as the author of the "award-winning period drama".

Everyone is dressed in contemporary costume for this make-belief reconstruction, and for the full performance which follows. The rehearsal is ostensibly directed by Beethoven himself (Ian Hart) with actors taking the parts of the listeners, the Prince's guests including composers Haydn and Ferdinand Reis.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducts the complete performance which on the DVD follows the rehearsal, and it is a good account of the Eroica with the special sounds of the period instruments made more striking by having close up views of them. It is however, as is the way with television, rather restless in terms of camera movement and cutting between views.

A little hard to be sure about the focus of the whole enterprise and who this DVD is intended for. With discussion backing, it should be admirable shown in schools, even though some home viewers may find it not completely convincing at every point.

However, there is a good background introductory note by Misha Donat, filling in the historical considerations authoritatively, and with an analytic note about the music itself. Good quality surround-sound. It deserves commercial success.

© Peter Grahame Woolf