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29 October 2014
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Ian Hart is Beethoven in unique drama of the first performance of the Eroica Symphony

Ian Hart is to play Ludwig van Beethoven in a unique drama for BBC TWO by Nick Dear which focuses on the day in June 1804 when Beethoven's Third Symphony Eroica was first played in a private rehearsal at the palace of the composer's patron in Vienna.

Also starring Frank Finlay, Tim Piggott-Smith, Jack Davenport, Claire Skinner and Anton Lesser and directed by Simon Cellan-Jones - whose credits include Our Friends in the North, Storm Damage and the feature film Some Voices - Eroica is a unique collaboration between the BBC's Classical Music and Drama departments.

Executive Producer and Head of BBC Classical Music Peter Maniura says: "Beethoven's revolutionary Third Symphony, The Eroica, burst upon an unsuspecting world in the summer of 1804.

"BBC Classical Music and BBC Drama are collaborating to recreate that day in a film drama which allows viewers to feel the full force and emotion of a work which changed the course of musical history."

Eroica will feature the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, one of the world's foremost Beethoven experts.

The performance will be the first in modern times to replicate exactly the number of players and the size of the venue which the invited audience, on that historic day, experienced.

Eroica explores the story behind the symphony, Beethoven's passion for his work, his unrequited love for an unattainable woman and the reactions and observations of those who are present.

Set against the revolutionary climate of the early 1800s, Beethoven - who is suffering from a gradual loss of hearing - confounds his audience by producing a score dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte (which he later retracts), which surpasses the old classical style of his contemporaries and introduces the new concept of a romantic style.

Beethoven's patron, Prince Lobkowitz (Jack Davenport), Count Dietrichstein (Tim Piggott-Smith), Sukowaty the copyist (Anton Lesser), the Brunsvik sisters (Claire Skinner and Lucy Akhurst) and Hayden (Frank Finlay) are all in the audience to witness the premiere of one of Beethoven's finest and ground-breaking works.

Screenwriter Nick Dear, whose two-part drama about Byron for BBC TWO is currently in post-production, says: "Eroica unfolds over just a few hours on 9 June 1804.

"It begins with preparations for the rehearsal: the musicians lugging their instruments, the servants preparing the salon, Prince Lobkowitz, his family and guests anticipating a thrilling session, Beethoven's friends and lovers showing up to give support.

"And then the bad-tempered maestro begins his rehearsal - the nature of the music is so different that it causes problems both for players and audience - at one point Beethoven has a furious row with the orchestra and is banished to an ante-room.

"The whole of the symphony will be played through, and then it's over. End of film.

"Beethoven goes home and has some fish for dinner. He likes fish."

Jane Root, Controller of BBC TWO, says: "Eroica is a unique piece of programming that brings together the skills and talents of two different genres to create an informative and compelling story.

"It's a new way of working that we are keen to explore on TWO and there are already other cross-genre collaborations between the BBC's Factual, Entertainment and Drama genres in the pipeline."

These include Byron, a two-part drama also written by Nick Dear starring Jonny Lee Miller in the title role;

D-Day and Dunkirk drama documentaries;

Samuel Pepys, a film by Guy Jenkin with Steve Coogan attached to star in the title role;

and Larkin: Love Again, a film based on the life of poet Philip Larkin starring Hugh Bonneville, all for BBC TWO.

Root continues: "With these dramas, Eroica, or Larkin: Love Again or Byron, we're trying to get under the skin of the subjects, to capture the audience's imagination by harnessing the experience and expertise of programme-makers across the BBC to bring a new perspective to story-telling."

Filming for Eroica starts next week in and around London - including the Fame Academy mansion in Highgate.

Ian Hart was seen most recently as Dr Watson in BBC ONE's The Hound of the Baskervilles, opposite Richard Roxburgh's Sherlock Holmes; as Professor Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone; and as the father in Stephen Frears' Liam.

Eroica is to be shown later this year on BBC TWO.

The producer is Liza Marshall (The Sins, Fields of Gold) and the executive producers are Peter Maniura and Hilary Salmon.

All the BBC's digital services are now available on Freeview, the new free-to-view digital terrestrial television service, as well as on satellite and cable.

Freeview offers the BBC's eight television channels, interactive services from BBCi, as well as 11 BBC radio networks.



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