What Did Napoleon Think Of Beethoven?

Although Beethoven had originally planned to dedicate his Eroica symphony to Napoleon, it was published in 1806 with only the subtitle “per festeggiare il sovvenire di un grand Uomo” (“to celebrate the memory of a great man”) due to his anger upon hearing that Napoleon had become Emperor of France.

I’m sure that Napoleon would have eventually caught wind of this as Beethoven was a well-known composer by that time. Is there any record of his views of Beethoven or his third symphony? I would guess that he would simply ascribe Beethoven’s animosity to being part of the other team without any attendant personal acrimony, but am just curious about any record of mention by Napoleon about this.

I’ll point out that Ulysses S. Grant once said something to the effect that there were only two songs he knew. One version says, “One is ‘Yankee Doodle’ (or ‘Hail to the Chief’) and the other isn’t.” The other says, “One is ‘The Star Spangled Banner’’” - “And the other?” - “That’s the one where I don’t stand up and take my hat off.”

Maybe Nappie didn’t have enough appreciation of music to care.

Good question, though.

Not much. AFAICF no direct remarks from Napoleon came about that issue. Most likely because Napoleon was more into Italian opera and martial tunes. And as the Napoleon side reports, Beethoven could still had a soft spot for the conqueror after changing the name to the symphony.


He preferred improvisational jazz.

Especially Wayne Shorter.

I don’t think Grant is relevant. He notoriously disliked music for some reason, which is not a trait Napoleon is known to have shared as far as I know.

But that’s exactly the point. Maybe his tastes simply didn’t run to the German Romantic composers, and therefore he had no real opinion even though he was nominally being honored (and then diss-honored).

The likelihood is that Napoleon was completely unaware. The earliest record of the anecdote about Beethoven changing the dedication dates only from 1838. Which doesn’t necessarily mean that it never happened. But it does mean that it had not been widely known before then.