During one year, the world of classical music has talked of no one else: Beethoven. A giant in the history of western music, there was no circumventing his 250th anniversary! From Fidelio, staged by the Salzburg Puppet Theatre, to the Beethoven Pianoforte Sessions and their series of online concerts, and the Hotel Beethoven exhibition, BOZAR’s anniversary programme bears witness to a year, which, despite the hardships caused by the COVID-19 crisis, that offered you memorable times. Here are a few photos of event highlights. Feel free to also share your best memories.
BOZAR did not wait until 2020 to pay tribute to Ludwig van Beethoven. As early as 2016, and for two consecutive seasons, Russian pianist Igor Levit performed the composer’s complete 32 piano sonatas. Then in 2018-2019, the nine symphonies took centre stage in a cycle of concerts involving all three federal cultural institutions: BOZAR, the La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra and the Belgian National Orchestra.
The Beethoven year at BOZAR began with an extraordinary project: the opera Fidelio, staged by the Salzburg Puppet Theatre. The prisoners’ chorus, and the famous arias of Leonore, Florestan and Marzelline were displayed by the breathtakingly lifelike pantomime of the wooden puppet troupe. The Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the Swedish Radio Choir also performed Beethoven’s only opera, in a semi-concert version.
Belgian and international orchestras, conductors and soloists, all paid tribute to Beethoven’s talent as a symphonist. The majestic chords of the Eroica surged from the brass of the Belgian National Orchestra; his Violin Concerto was revealed in all its grace in the hands of Stephen Waarts, accompanied by the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra; and the poignant cantabile of the Piano Concerto No. 3 found the perfect interpreter in Khatia Buniatishvili.
Alongside the symphonies, there was chamber music. Audiences were thrilled by the Faust-Queyras-Melnikov trio and the Zimmermann-Helmchen duo. The Quatuor Ébène made two memorable visits: in January 2020, as part of their tour of six continents, Beethoven around the World; and in December, the closing concert of the project was streamed live from the beautiful Henry le Bœuf Hall, sadly bereft of its beloved audience.
Unclassifiable projects, such as the fusion of film and music by Ana Torfs and the Ictus ensemble, or Aka Moon’s Opus 111, in which Beethoven’s last piano sonata provided the starting point for new, ultra-swinging jazz compositions, cast a contemporary light on the master’s music.
The highlight of the Beethoven Year was undoubtedly the Hotel Beethoven exhibition, organised as part of the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union, an immersion into the heart of the myth, an exploration of the relationship with deafness, and an ode to the composer’s humanist spirit.
To make up for the absence of concerts, the Beethoven Pianoforte Sessions and the Roll over Beethoven video brought the unique sound of the replica pianofortes – on display in the exhibition – into your home, with famous and emerging musicians displaying their inspiring technique and artistry.
To crown it all, musical events were topped off by inspiring discussions in the From here to Ear series, as well as a range of fun theme-based activities for young and old alike.
What about you? What were your highlights of the Beethoven 2020 programme at BOZAR? Tell us about them! Did you take photos before or after a concert? Did you try out our Hotel Beethoven activity sheets? Send us your best pictures. We’ll post them on Instagram.