Many do not know this, but this year marks the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth. That’s right! Beethoven was born 250 years ago today in Bonn, Germany. What we find so fascinating about this is that many people do not associate Beethoven with Bonn, nor do they even know he is from there. Because Beethoven wrote his most well-known symphonies in Vienna, that’s where people tend to associate Beethoven with.
Well, we’re here to change that. Ludwig van Beethoven spent the first 22 years of his life growing, learning, and perfecting his musical skills in Bonn, so it is important to connect the two together. Plus, in 1999, the transfer of the capital of Germany occurred, moving from Bonn to Berlin. So, while the old capital buildings are still in Bonn to view, there isn’t the draw of the hustle and bustle of the government anymore. But there should be the draw of Beethoven, as this is where he grew up!
Because of this, the city of Bonn is celebrating all things Beethoven this year! In fact, Beethoven is in every detail of Bonn right now. For instance, as soon as you get off the train into Bonn, you will see Beethoven in the glass railings of the train station. And, at almost every green light in the city center, you will find Beethoven’s face peering at you. You see, Beethoven is very important to Bonn. He was born in their city, and this vibrant city full of art and culture is ready to celebrate all things Beethoven and remind the world of his heritage. So, we highly recommend you head to this musical city and celebrate Beethoven in 2020. Plus, Bonn tourism is increasing tremendously, and Lonely Planet just listed Bonn in their top 5 “Best Travel 2020” to celebrate Beethoven’s anniversary! So, it’s the place to be this year!
Bonn’s Beethoven Musical Highlights
While seeing the house where Beethoven was born and the Bundeskunsthalle museum with a large collection of artifacts and information on Beethoven’s life is a must, we think one of the most important ways to celebrate Beethoven is via music: not only by listening to and celebrating his music but also by seeing how he has influenced the music of today. And this year, Bonn is absolutely booming with musical highlights! Here are a few of them:
250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven
For Beethoven’s 250th Anniversary, pianist Susanne Kessel invited 250 composers from around the world to each compose a piano piece inspired by Beethoven in some way. (And now the project has increased to 260 composers). These composers range from 10 years old to 80 years old, and each piece written is unique and related to Beethoven in some way. Susanne’s project was a huge undertaking, having started in 2013, and is a project of passion and love. Susanne played a few select pieces for us in Bonn, and they were truly moving. So, to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary with someone who has such a strong passion for music and Beethoven’s work, follow Susanne and attend one of her concerts for the anniversary project. If you are in Bonn, try to time your trip with one of her performances. Or, if you are unable to attend, purchase her first CD of the project and celebrate Beethoven from anywhere around the world. This is especially important as it shows us how Beethoven’s pieces are affecting modern composers working in today’s world.
Over the warmer months of the year, 6 exceptional castle venues will combine their special ambience with good food and Beethoven’s classical music. The six events each represent a different aspect of Beethoven’s life, and the musical guests range from modern to classical entertainers. This is a must-visit to celebrate Beethoven’s anniversary if you will be around in the summertime and have a love of the outdoors!
Beethoven Orchestra and Opera Concerts
This year, there are over 80 concert and 100 operas planned under the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn and General Music Director Dirk Kaftan with a steady parade of stars coming into Bonn to perform. The life and works of Beethoven will be presented at these events which will take place at a stream of impressive locations.
While we were visiting Bonn, we had the distinct pleasure of watching Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra perform Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. It was a true delight seeing such a famed composer perform one of the greatest works of all time live. It was truly moving and definitely not something to be forgotten.
Orgelbau Klais Bonn
While celebrating Bonn’s music scene and the works of Ludwig van Beethoven, it’s important to understand how Beethoven’s work affected modern composers (which is why the 250 Pieces for Beethoven is so important). So, it’s important to look outside of the classical pieces and take a look into today’s music scene. And one of the most interesting ways to do that is to visit Philipp Klais in his workshop.
Orgelbau Klais Bonn is unlike any factory we’ve seen before. They make pipe organs and have since 1852. It is a family-owned business that has passed down through generations. But unlike many modern companies that are trying to use 3D printers and other shortcuts, they make all of their organ parts here by hand- this includes both the metal and timber materials. They carefully select their employees and interns, and all interns are sent to school for musical theory and education on top of their practical work. This really shows through in their pieces! The organs created by this company are pieces of art. They are always unique and fit the perfect aesthetic to match each location they are installing their piece at. Philipp Klais pressed on the importance of getting our youth into music, as well, saying, “Our audience in classical music is getting older so we are trying to make what we do attractive to the younger audience”.
While there are over 700 companies building pipe organs, Klais’s company stands out as it has for generations because of their craftsmanship. Their recent installations include pipe organs at the following locations: Beijing National Center for the Performing Arts, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, Cologne’s Cathedral, Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Philharmonic Hall, Leon’s Cathedral in Spain, Madison Wisconsin’s Overture Hall, Mainz’s St. Stephan, Singapore’s The Esplanade, and many more famous locations.
While not everyone may be able to step into a tour at Orgelbau Klais Bonn, it is important to try and see modern musicians and musical technicians in action. Beethoven was a revolutionary looking towards the future of music, so it’s important to look for the future of music as we take inspiration from him and his past.
Other Upcoming Events Inspired by Beethoven
2020 will continue on strong with countless events all inspired by Beethoven. Many non-musical focused events will feature Beethoven, as well, in an attempt to bring non-classical-music-lovers into the Beethoven mix. For instance, Karenval’s theme this year was Beethoven, and the theme for Rhine in Flammen will be Beethoven, as well! Be sure to follow the #Bthvn2020 hashtag for upcoming Beethoven events, as well as the Beethoven 2020 website here: https://www.bthvn2020.de/
We hope that we were able to remind you here that Bonn, Germany was the birthplace of Beethoven! And we hope that you choose Bonn as your primary travel destination in 2020 to join in all of the amazing upcoming festivities.
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