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.
Latest Beethoven 2020 news
January 6, 2019: The Theater an der Wien has announced six performances of Fidelio for March 2020.
November 22, 2018: The WienBeethoven2020 coordination office has opened officially. Its tasks include marketing and communication for the celebratory year, as well as supporting the various projects and Beethoven events proposed by individual institutions.
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. The city is peppered with Beethoven landmarks, including the Beethoven Museum, his grave, and more memorial plaques than you can count, thanks to his habit of moving house frequently.
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.
WienBeethoven2020 official events
The official 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): details TBA.
- Dec 16, 2020: Closing event (also in the Rathaus ceremonial hall): details TBA.
May 4-14, 2020: The University of Music and Performing Arts hosts the 16th International Beethoven Piano Competition. Traditionally, the public can attend each round of the event. Rodolfo Leone took home the €10,000 first prize last time out (2017) with his performance of Piano Concerto No. 5 (the “Emperor Concerto”). (More information)
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.
Every six months or so sees a new CD. At the time of writing, the following recordings are available:
- CD1 (2017) – Symphonies 1 and 3
- CD2 (2018) – Symphonies 4 and 5
- CD3 (2018) – Symphonies 2 and 7
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)