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Into the Open

March 22, 2010

This year's Beethovenfest features innovative concert formats revolving around the theme of utopia and freedom in music.

Beethovenfest logo
The Beethovenfest opens on September 10

"Come! Into the open, Friend!" is the opening line of Friedrich Hoelderlin's poem "Der Gang aufs Land" (The Walk in the Country). Written around 1800, it's an invitation to a place somewhere in the future where conventions are overcome and boundaries tested: an ethos and a zeitgeist indicative of Beethoven's time and the dawn of the 19th century, when social upheaval went hand in hand with dreams of utopia.

Testing boundaries and overcoming conventions, the music of Ludwig van Beethoven reflects the composer's turbulent times, often propagating political ideals and expressing utopian visions.

Breaking with stale concert rituals and experimenting with innovative programs are goals of the Beethovenfest Bonn, which seeks to do justice to the composer's cutting-edge role as a visionary, revolutionary and enlightened cosmopolitan.

The old with the new

Composer Peter Ruzicka
Composer Peter Ruzicka is honored at four eventsImage: Sikorski Verlag

One route "into the open" are new works of music. "Ins Offene…" (Into the Open…) is the title of composer Peter Ruzicka's own musical take on Hoelderlin. Ruzicka, composer-in-residence at the Beethovenfest 2010, will see his work "Ueber die Grenze…" (Across the Border…) for cello and orchestra premiered in Bonn, with Daniel Mueller-Schott as the soloist. New works by Joerg Widmann and Jan Mueller-Wieland have also been announced, commissioned by the festival.

A host of classical musicians will energize the stages of the Beethoven Hall, the Beethoven House and various locations in and around Bonn from September 10 - October 9, 2010. They include conductors Paavo Jarvi, Kent Nagano, Helmuth Rilling, Sir Neville Marriner and Sir Colin Davis, cellists Sol Gabetta and Jan Vogler, violinists Lisa Batiashvili and Veronika Eberle, pianist Andras Schiff and a number of prominent orchestras, including two giving their Beethovenfest premieres in 2010, the Staatskapelle Weimar and The Knights.

Classic at the tram stop

Pianist Helene Grimaud
Pianist Helene Grimaud is this year's artist-in-residenceImage: KASSKARA

Many of these artists search for unconventional approaches to working with musical material. The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, orchestra-in-residence since 2004, returns for the opening performance, joined by this year's artist-in-residence, Helene Grimaud.

Demonstrating her talent for improvisation will be Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero. Martin Grubinger will be joined by other percussionists to generate a surround sound through the rows of seats in the Beethoven Hall and follow the official concert with a Latin Lounge in the foyer.

Violinist Daniel Hope will perform at a tram depot together with a rock/pop artist to be chosen by students from local schools. This "Young Beethovenfest," which started in 2009, pools the imaginations of pre-professionals to build future audiences for classical music. Edgier attractions include video and stage installations and dance.

An audible utopia

Conductor Gustavo Dudamel
Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel is the best-known alumnus of the "Sistema"Image: AP

One concrete modern expression of a musical utopia with wide-reaching social and economic ramifications is the "Sistema," Venezuela's successful and innovative program for the musical education of slum children. Its visionary founder, Jose Antonio Abreu, is the patron of the 2010 Beethovenfest. On September 28 in Bonn, the "Sistema's" current youth orchestra, the Teresa Carreno Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, will open its first European tour under 26-year-old conductor Christian Vasquez.

An orchestra based on a similar model will be the focus of the Deutsche Welle Orchestral Campus this year: the Sinfonica Heliopolis from Sao Paulo. Founded in 1996 and named after Sao Paulo's Heliopolis district, it has 80 young musicians whose October 4 program in Bonn will include a new piece by Brazilian composer Andre Mehmari that was specifically commissioned for the Beethovenfest: "Cidade do Sol" (City of the Sun).

Beethoven and more

In honor of Robert Schumann's bicentenary, the Beethovenfest Bonn 2010 will explore the many facets of that composer. The 67 concerts will be complemented by a symposium, exhibitions, lectures, readings, films and workshops.

Beethoven bust
A 3-D bust of the composer greets visitors to the Beethoven Hall

Funding of the Beethovenfest is anything but utopian. Even in times of crisis, municipal subsidies are stable in the current season and set to grow in the following one. Along with the city of Bonn, resources flow from a number of corporate sponsors and partnerships with media organizations.

Free festival podcasts

Once again, Beethovenfest sponsor Deutsche Welle is pleased to present an extensive selection of festival performances, available free of charge as downloads or podcasts at www.dw-world.de or on iTunes.

Author: Rick Fulker

Editor: Kate Bowen

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