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 makes 2020 the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, and Vienna offers a feast of events to celebrate the milestone. I’m listing and updating all the key dates and activities below as I hear of them.
[Unfortunately, the Coronavirus has messed up the celebratory year quite emphatically, with many events cancelled or postponed.
Events and dates listed below may still be affected by public health measures, so check official event and government websites for the latest info.]
- See also: Beethoven locations in Vienna
Latest Beethoven 2020 news
- The Austrian Postal Service has released a special Beethoven series of eight stamps and a special edition Beethoven stamp
- Beethoven exhibition at the National Library extended to January 10th, 2021
- Review of the new Haydn – Mozart – Beethoven exhibition at the Mozarthaus is now up
- Details are now online for the Beethoven Moves exhibition at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna’s main art museum)
(See below for specific dates and details.)
- Beethoven. World of the Man and Spark of the Gods exhibition at the National Library starts
- 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
- Fidelio (directed by Christoph Waltz) at the Theater an der Wien
- First of several performances on old instruments in the Neue Burg wing of the Hofburg Palace
- 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
September (postponements/cancellations possible)
- The postal service releases a commemorative Beethoven stamp, available from September 30th
- Beethoven Bewegt exhibition begins at the Kunsthistorisches Museum
- Hommage à Beethoven exhibition begins at the Haus der Musik
November (postponements/cancellations possible)
- Inspiration Beethoven exhibition at the Leopold Museum
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”.
The city has a website with numerous relevant events listed.
Special Beethoven exhibitions
House of Music
Vienna’s Haus der Musik announced special additions to their existing Beethoven room (a MUST for Beethoven fans). An exhibition of Marton Barabas’s sculptures and other art works takes place in autumn (beginning on September 11th).
Vienna’s Art History Museum has the Beethoven Bewegt exhibition with a mix of art genres and media that builds a dialogue between artists and Beethoven (and between art and music). Runs from September 29th, 2020 to January 24th, 2021.
The National Library, home to perhaps the most impressive room in Vienna, has Beethoven documents on display until early 2021. This includes excerpts from autograph manuscripts and letters from Beethoven to contemporaries, supporters, students, female friends, and more.
The 2020/2021 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 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 (November 27th, 2020 to April 4th, 2021).
Note that many of the below may be cancelled or postponed due to event restrictions across the summer.
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. (More information)
- 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)
- Various performances of selected Beethoven’s works using original instruments from the same era. These take place in the galleries housing the collection of historical musical instruments in the Neue Burg wing of the Hofburg Palace (April 25, April 26, September 27, December 17)
- 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
- The ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra will participate in the worldwide initiative, All Together: A Global Ode to Joy. The Austrian concert is now on April 15, 2021 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…
The 16th International Beethoven Piano Competition for young pianists (now moved to April, 2021).
(The Staatsoper / State Opera House)
April-May 2020: Fidelio (standard version) at the Staatsoper on April 22, 25 and 28, and May 2 (already cancelled)
June 21st, 2020: Fidelio at the Mozarthaus, performed on a piano with modern dance interpretation (already cancelled)
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…