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The Heroic Symphony
Anne Harwell Celenza
Illustrated by
Non-fiction Picture Book and music CD
Ages 5 to 10
Charlesbridge, 2004, 1-57091-406-0
  Ludwig Beethoven is almost deaf but thankfully even though he cannot hear much of the music he composes, he is still able to create music in his head inspired by the events which are taking place around him and driven by his incredibly powerful imagination. It is Ludwig’s hope that he will create music which “exhilarates” people rather than “entertains” them. He wants to create music that says something and which is about real people and situations.
  As Ludwig goes about in Vienna he hears the people talking about a very extraordinary man – Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonaparte put a new government into place in France and has “accomplished the impossible.” Ludwig decides that he is going to write a tribute to the famous general.
  For five months Ludwig works on his symphony and though it is a tribute to Bonaparte is also a musical description of his own suffering and that of “humanity” as a whole. Then Ludwig learns that his hero Bonaparte had done the unthinkable. He has crowned himself Emperor of all France. Ludwig is furious because the man he so admired is no better than anyone else – he is greedy and manipulative. Ludwig is so angry that he tears up the music sheets on which he wrote his symphony. Thankfully Ludwig’s friend Ferdinand stopped his musical friend from burning the music. Ludwig renames the symphony and it becomes a tribute not to a power hungry general but one to all people who suffer and survive.
  This wonderful true story about how the “Eroica Symphony” came to be composed is written in an easy to understand style. Children may be surprised to learn that composers are just like the rest of us, seeking heroes, being disappointed by life, and somehow surviving in the face of hardship. The book has a CD which comes with it so that the reader can listen to the symphony which caused Ludwig so much pain and which has touched the hearts of music lovers for over two hundred years.


Heroic Symphony


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