Composers Datebook®

Beethoven's 'Eroica' premiere

Composers Datebook - April 7, 2024


On today’s date in 1805, Ludwig van Beethoven conducted the first public performance of his Symphony No. 3, subtitled Eroica at Theater an der Wien in Vienna. It was a symphony bolder, louder, and twice as long as any Mozart or Haydn ever wrote and must have been a real challenge for the musicians and audiences of Beethoven’s day.

Prior to the first public performance, several private rehearsals and performances had taken place at the palace of Beethoven’s patron, Prince Lobkowitz. Apparently, the prince had to add 22 extra musicians to his court orchestra, including a third French horn player Beethoven requested.

Speaking of French horns, at one point in the symphony’s first movement, one of them seems to come in early, intoning the main theme. It’s what Beethoven intended, but even Beethoven’s secretary, Ferdinard Ries, attending the first rehearsal of the new work, assumed it was a mistake, and said so to Beethoven — who was NOT amused — as Ries recalled in his memoir:

"’That damned hornist!,’ [I said.] ‘Can't he count? It sounds frightfully wrong.’ I nearly got my ears boxed, and Beethoven did not forgive me for a long time.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1828): Symphony No. 3 (Eroica); Berlin Philharmonic; Herbert von Karajan, conductor; DG 429 036

On This Day


  • 1726 - British composer, music journalist and historian Charles Burney, in Shrewsbury. This date is according to the Julian “Old Style” calendar still in use in England that year; under the Gregorian “New Style” calendar, this date would be April 18.

  • 1763 - Italian composer and double-bass virtuoso Domenico Dragonetti, in Venice

  • 1899 - French composer and pianist Robert Casadesus, in Paris

  • 1920 - Indian composer and sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, in Benares


  • 1783 - German composer Ignaz Holzbauer, 71, in Mannheim


  • 1713 - Handel: Utrecht Te Deum, at St. Paul's Cathedral in London (Gregorian date: April 18)

  • 1724 - Bach: St. John Passion performed on Good Friday at the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig

  • 1745 - Handel: oratorio Belshazzar (Julian date: March 27)

  • 1805 - first public performance of Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (Eroica) at Theater an der Wien in Vienna, with composer conducting. This symphony had been performed at least twice at private concerts arranged in late 1804 and early 1805.

  • 1923 - Hahn: operetta Ciboulette, in Paris at the Théâtre des Variétés

  • 1928 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 10, in Moscow

  • 1965 - Henze: opera Der Junge Lord (The Young Lord), in West Berlin at the Deutsche Oper

  • 1994 - John Harbison: Cello Concerto, in Boston, with Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony, Seiji Ozawa conducting

  • 2005 - Augusta Read Thomas: Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour for mezzo-soprano, tenor and chamber ensemble, at the Columbia University’s Miller Theater in New York City


  • 1863 - American premiere of Mozart's Symphony No. 40, by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Theodore Thomas conducting

  • 1918 - German conductor of the Boston Symphony, Karl Muck, is arrested and interned as an enemy alien after American enters World War I

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®