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In history and in art, there have always been people who have extraordinary powers such as drive, mental strength, or the power of persuasion. They are known as heroes or heroines, and the yearning for them has accompanied humanity since time immemorial. In the 2023/24 season, the Berliner Philharmoniker will present very different heroes and types of musical heroism.

Perhaps the best-known example is Ludwig van Beethoven’s Third Symphony. Known as the Eroica, it also illustrates the dramaturgical appeal of a heroic story: the starting point is usually a desperate situation – symbolised here by a funeral march. But then, the misfortune is overcome by sheer effort, ultimately leading to jubilation and relief. At the same time, the Eroica conveys the pitfalls of a heroic narrative. Originally, the freedom-loving Beethoven wanted to create a tribute to the revolutionary Napoleon Bonaparte. But when he crowned himself emperor, the composer scratched out the dedication so vigorously that the paper tore.

A special case of heroism can be seen in Richard Strauss, who – quite immodestly – made himself the subject of his tone poem Ein Heldenleben. And his Don Juan, the unscrupulous seducer, is not exactly a sympathetic figure either. But Strauss’s works express an aspiration that is still relevant today: that of self-realisation. And that, according to Strauss, is what true heroism is.

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