A song recital on Wednesday evening in the Bonn Opera House will be the musical entrée to city's Beethoven Festival, which runs from September 17 to October 10th. This year the event will focus attention on Beethoven and his special relationship with the region of Bohemia and Morovia. Taking the theme is "Bohemia," the festival will present 56 concerts featuring some of the world's leading musicians. Concerts will take place in 21 different venues that include many of Bonn's most historically significant buildings, including the Beethoven House, the Petersberg Guest House, and several old castles and palaces along the Rhine.
Breandáin O'Shea reports:
Bonn's Beethoven Festival date's back to 1845, when a three-day music festival took place for the inauguration of the city' s Beethoven monument on the occasion of the composer's 75th birthday. After an eventful past, it wasn't until 1998 that the event entered a new stadium and became an annual international festival.
This year's Beethoven festival serves as an opening fanfare for it's new managing director, Ilona Schmiel. Her plan is to present Beethoven's music in the context of its historical predecessors and descendants, choosing a different region of Europe each year.
This year's choice of Bohemia and Morovia is connected with the fact that the Czech Republic entered the European Union in May 2004. But as Ilona Schmiel explains Beethoven frequently visited Prague throughout his life and sustained contacts with the intellectual and artistic circles in the Bohemian capital:
"I think it's the best start we could make to 2004, because we have two anniversaries; the 150th anniversary of Leos Janacek and the anniversary of Antonin Dvorak who stepped in, was creative with Beethoven's work. He died 100 years ago. So this one of the reasons we chose Bohemia. The other thing was the reconstruction of the European Union and that meant that the Czech Republic is our new partner."
This year is also the 150th anniversary of the birth of Leoš Janácek and the first centenary of the death of Antonín Dvorák, two other composers featured throughout the festival.
However Czech soloists and ensembles, are not the only attraction at this year's festival. Highlights include a concert with renowned mezzo soprano Vesselina Kasarova , the Bamberg Symphony under the direction of Jonathan Nott and appearances by the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Czech Philharmonic under Sir John Eliot Gardiner. There will also be an impressive array of great pianists including Gerhard Oppitz, Uri Caine and Murray Perahia
Bonn's Beethoven house, the birthplace of the great composer, will host a special exhibition during the festival called " Prague - a Musical Metropolis in Beethoven's time." The exhibition has been put together by Czech art historian Dr Marketa Kabelkova:
"Diese Austellung stellt das Musikleben in Prag an der Wende des 18. Und 19. Jahrhundert vor. Das war eine Zeit wo die Kunst und Musikkunst sehr lebendig war. Das war gerade in dieser Zeit wo Beethoven in Prag war. Er hat Prag wahrscheinlich fünf mal, sicher vier mal besucht. Die Ausstellung soll zeigen..."
This exhibition presents the Prague music scene at the turn of the 18th to 19th Century, which, along with the Art scene at this time, was very lively. This was just when Beethoven was in Prague. He must have visited Prague four or five times.
In addition to the Festival's concert program, Bohemia will also be the theme of a series of readings, exhibitions, lectures and film screenings taking place all over in and around Bonn.