On December 16 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven popped into the world, no doubt humming the first few bars of his 9 Variations on a March.
This means 2020 is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, and Vienna is already gearing up for a feast of events to celebrate the milestone. I’ll be listing all the key dates and activities below as I hear of them.
- See also: Beethoven locations in Vienna
Latest Beethoven 2020 news
- The exhibition of original manuscripts and letters at the National Library begins on December 19th, 2019
- The ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra performs its contribution to the All Together: A Global Ode to Joy initiative on October 16, 2020
- Major performances of Beethoven’s opera, Fidelio, are planned:
- The Staatsoper will show the original version (Leonore) in February and the final version in April and May
- The Theater an der Wien announced six performances for March 2020
Beethoven and Vienna
Although born and raised in Germany, Beethoven spent most of his life in Vienna, arriving in his early twenties in 1792 and remaining here until his death in 1827. Hence all the celebratory events and activities.
(Beethoven’s grave in Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof)
It’s hard to wander more than a minute or two in Vienna without finding somewhere the great composer lived, stayed, ate, composed or performed in.
The formal designation for the anniversary year is WienBeethoven2020 (Wien being the German for Vienna), with a coordination office in Auerspergstraße under the leadership of Dr. Susanne Schicker. Her motto is (my translation) “Beethoven for all and not just the few”.
- Dec 16, 2019: Official opening at the ceremonial hall of the Rathaus (city hall)
- Dec 16, 2020: Closing event (also in the Rathaus ceremonial hall)
Check all the normal concert venues for Beethoven performances. But here a few highlights:
This is a project of the Orchester Wiener Akademie and Martin Haselböck, performing Beethoven’s works on original instruments and in original venues around Vienna.
Various dates are planned for 2020. Can I recommend the February ones in Palais Niederösterreich? Simply because this remarkable palais (where Beethoven once played) is normally closed to the public. (More information)
February 1/2: Members of the State Opera House will perform all of Beethoven’s songs in the Gustav Mahler Saal of the opera house.
- The 2020 New Year’s concert from the Wiener Philharmoniker should have a particular Beethoven flavour to it, according to rumour. The orchestra also has a series of concerts in the State Opera House featuring Beethoven’s chamber music (January 11, January 18, March 28, April 18, May 9, June 13)
- And the Wiener Symphoniker’s own concert on New Year’s day is a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Konzerthaus
- The Wiener Symphoniker also lead a special event in the same location on January 11, 2020: a repeat of the famous 1808 concert evening where Beethoven’s fifth and sixth symphonies premiered
- The Wiener Philharmoniker and conductor Andris Nelsons perform all of Beethoven’s symphonies across several dates at the Musikverein
- May 23/24 – Symphonies 1 to 3 on each day
- May 27/28 – Symphonies 4 and 5 on each day
- June 3/4 – Symphonies 6 and 7 on each day
- June 6/7 – Symphonies 8 and 9 on each day
- The ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra will participate in the worldwide initiative, All Together: A Global Ode to Joy. The Austrian concert is on October 16 in the Konzerthaus
(The Staatsoper / State Opera House)
January 19, 2020: A matinee at the Staatsoper which introduces Beethoven’s Fidelio, the composer, and the Staatsoper’s staging of the piece, with discussions with performers.
February 1, 2020: Premiere of Fidelio (in the original Leonore version) at the Staatsoper, conducted by Tomáš Netopil and directed by Amélie Niermeyer (with a livestream online). Further performances February 5, 8, 11, and 14.
March 2020: Special performances of Beethoven’s Fidelio will be held at the Theater an der Wien opera house, directed by Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz. Beethoven once lived on the theatre’s premises, which also hosted premieres of several of his compositions (including the first version of Fidelio). (More information)
April-May 2020: Fidelio (standard version) at the Staatsoper (April 22, 25 and 28, and May 2)
The Wiener Symphoniker (the Vienna Symphony Orchestra) is building up to the 2020 event by releasing all of Beethoven’s symphonies, based on live recordings from a cycle of performances in 2017 at the Musikverein and featuring conductor Philippe Jordan.
All recordings are now available:
- CD1 (2017) – Symphonies 1 and 3
- CD2 (2018) – Symphonies 4 and 5
- CD3 (2018) – Symphonies 2 and 7
- CD4 (2019) – Symphonies 6 and 8
- CD5 (2019) – Symphony 9
As well as special concerts, the folk behind RESOUND Beethoven (see above) will have released all his symphonies and piano concerts by 2020. What’s notable about the recordings is they’re made using historical instruments.
Events and exhibitions
House of Music
Vienna’s Haus der Musik is planning special additions to their existing Beethoven room and two special exhibitions:
- Marton Barabas’s sculptures and other art works made from old piano parts (April – September, 2020)
- Bernstein’s Beethoven (from October 2020)
The museum will also feature an Inside Beethoven installation, where visitors can immerse themselves in a classical music ensemble.
Vienna’s Art History Museum has a planned Beethoven exhibition for March to September, 2020 with a mix of art genres and media. More details will come as I get them.
The National Library, home to perhaps the most impressive room in Vienna, will display Beethoven documents in late 2019 and early 2020. This includes excerpts from the autograph manuscript for his Ninth Symphony, other original scores, and letters from Beethoven to contemporaries, supporters, students, female friends, and more.
The Beethoven Museum and Pasqualatihaus host a special festival from June 16 to 18 with concerts, tours, family activities and similar. And Beethoven’s own ear trumpet makes a special appearance on loan from Bonn.
The Inspiration Beethoven exhibition at the Leopold Museum features a reconstruction of the cycle of paintings done for a music room by Josef Maria Auchentaller, essentially a pictorial representation of Beethoven’s entire 6th symphony. The exhibition will also feature other works from the period of Vienna Modernism that demonstrate the role of Beethoven and his music as sources of inspiration (May 30 to September 21).
Beethoven piano competition
May 4-14, 2020: The University of Music and Performing Arts hosts the 16th International Beethoven Piano Competition for young pianists.
Traditionally, the public can attend each round of the event. Rodolfo Leone took home first prize last time out (2017) with his performance of Piano Concerto No. 5 (the “Emperor Concerto”).
The 2020 version has a first prize of €10,000 and a Bösendorfer grand piano. (More information)