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 offers a feast of events to celebrate the milestone. I’m listing all the key dates and activities below as I hear of them.
- See also: Beethoven locations in Vienna
Latest Beethoven 2020 news
- Review of the new Haydn – Mozart – Beethoven exhibition at the Mozarthaus is now up
- The Austrian Postal Service has a special €1.80 Beethoven stamp coming out on September 4th
- Details are now online for the Beethoven Moves exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna’s main art museum)
- The exhibition of original manuscripts and letters at the National Library has opened (runs through to April 19th, 2020)
(See below for specific dates and details.)
- Beethoven. World of the Man and Spark of the Gods exhibition at the National Library (until April 19th)
- Special concert from the Wiener Symphoniker in the Konzerthaus
- Performance of Beethoven’s Lieder in the State Opera House
- Fidelio (in the original Leonore version) at the State Opera House
- Haydn – Mozart – Beethoven exhibition opens at the Mozarthaus
- Beethoven Bewegt exhibition begins at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (until July 5th)
- Fidelio (directed by Christoph Waltz) at the Theater an der Wien
- Performance of Beethoven sonatas on a late-19th century fortepiano in the Neue Burg
- Inspiration Beethoven exhibition at the Leopold Museum (until September 21)
- Open-air Festival of Joy concert on Heldenplatz
- The Wiener Philharmoniker perform symphonies 1-5 at the Musikverein
- 16th International Beethoven Piano Competition for young pianists
- Inside Beethoven installation begins at the Haus der Music (until August 10th)
- Special musical interpretations of the 6th symphony at the Haus der Musik
- Special festival at the Beethoven Museum and Pasqualati House
- The Wiener Philharmoniker perform symphonies 6-9 at the Musikverein
- The Jazzrausch Bigband perform Beethoven’s Breakdown as part of the Vienna Jazz Festival
- US pianist, Gerardo Teissonnière, plays Beethoven’s last three sonatas in the Altes Rathaus
- The postal service releases the commemorative Beethoven stamp on September 4th
- The ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra contributes to the All Together: A Global Ode to Joy initiative
- Exhibition start: Bernstein’s Beethoven in the Haus der Musik
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”.
Special Beethoven exhibitions
House of Music
Vienna’s Haus der Musik announced special additions to their existing Beethoven room (a MUST for Beethoven fans) and two dedicated exhibitions:
- Marton Barabas’s sculptures and other art works made from old piano parts (April 20th – September, 2020)
- Bernstein’s Beethoven (from October 2020), with presents Bernstein’s perspective on Beethoven’s music
The museum will also feature an Inside Beethoven installation (June 10 to August 10), where visitors can immerse themselves in a classical music ensemble.
Vienna’s Art History Museum has the Beethoven Bewegt exhibition from March 25 to July 7, 2020 with a mix of art genres and media that builds a dialogue between artists and Beethoven (and between art and music).
The National Library, home to perhaps the most impressive room in Vienna, has Beethoven documents on display until 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 2020 exhibition in Mozart’s former home looks at the three greats (Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven) of the Wiener Klassik period of classical music and their relationship to each other. Runs through the year from February 19.
The Beethoven museums
The Beethoven Museum and Pasqualatihaus host a special festival from June 16 to 28 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).
Check all the normal concert venues for Beethoven performances, of which there are dozens throughout the year. 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)
- Members of the State Opera House perform all of Beethoven’s songs in the Gustav Mahler Saal of the opera house (February 1-2).
- The Wiener Philharmoniker has a series of concerts in the novel surrounds of that same State Opera House, this time featuring Beethoven’s chamber music (January 11, January 18, March 28, April 18, May 9, June 13)
- Ronald Brautigam plays Beethoven’s piano sonatas on an original fortepiano of the time (March 15). The performance takes place in the Neue Burg wing of the Hofburg palace, among the collection of historical musical instruments
- The Mozarthaus hosts a “hommage to Ludwig van Beethoven” by the Nepomuk Ensemble on March 29 in the building’s Bösendorfer-Saal.
- The Wiener Symphoniker lead a special event in the Konzerthaus on January 11, 2020: a repeat of the famous 1808 concert evening where Beethoven’s fifth and sixth symphonies premiered. The orchestra’s contribution to the Festival of Joy on May 8 also has a Beethoven-flavoured theme to it
- The Haus der Musik hosts special musical interpretations of Beethoven’s 6th (Pastoral) symphony for the World Environment Day around June 5th.
- 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
- As part of Jazzfest Wien, the 40-piece Jazzrausch Bigband perform an evening of music on July 1st at Porgy & Bess honouring the Beethoven anniversary with their own unique interpretive sound…
- The Bank Austria Salon in the Barocksaal of Vienna’s Altes Rathaus hosts US pianist, Gerardo Teissonnière, for an evening of Beethoven’s sonatas on August 10th
- 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
Beethoven piano competition
The University of Music and Performing Arts has numerous Beethoven concerts and events throughout the year, which you can read about here. In particular…
May 4-14, 2020: 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)
(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)
June 21st, 2020: Fidelio at the Mozarthaus, performed on a piano with modern dance interpretation
The Wiener Symphoniker (the Vienna Symphony Orchestra) built 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) have released all his symphonies What’s notable about the recordings is they’re made using historical instruments in the original venues.
And that’s it for now…watch this space for more Beethoven 2020 news.