1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Beethovenfest 2023: Bold, like Beethoven himself

Anastassia Boutsko
September 1, 2023

70 concerts, 30 venues and an orchestra foundation: The Beethovenfest 2023 starts in Bonn with the motto "Music about life."

A young woman wearing a black and white top, identified as Russian cellist Anastasia Kobekina, holds a cello up in the air.
Star cellist Anastasia Kobekina from Russia will play at the opening concertImage: Daniel Dittus/Beethovenfest Bonn

If Beethoven had been alive today, he would most certainly have been a progressive type —

Steven Walter, artistic director of the Beethovenfest, is certain of that.

"In any case, he was someone who always thought ahead, even if he was rooted in tradition. He definitely would not have stagnated in a preservationist attitude and only reproduce material," Walter tells DW.

Walter, who is organizing the festival in Bonn for the second time with his young team, would like to keep this typical Beethoven drive alive: "You can quietly, just like Beethoven, be a bit bold and brave."

The motto of this year's festival is "Music about life." "The first three festivals under my directorship dealt with three major social themes. In 2022, the motto 'All the People' was about diversity and variety. Next year, 2024, we'll be addressing the topic of 'Democracy.' And this year, under the motto 'Life,' it's about sustainability and man's relationship with nature, as it was and as it is."

Beethoven's music captures Bonn and surrounding area

Courage and innovation are definitely called for when designing a festival in a cultural landscape still weakened by the pandemic. It's about thinking ahead from the classical format of a symphony concert and developing new venues and formats.

Three young people pose together for the camrea while leaning on a grand piano.
Pianist Danae Dörken (left) poses with Beethovenfest artistic director Steven Walter and his 'Tiny House' co-host, Coco ElaneImage: Michael Stab/Beethovenfest Bonn

Until September 24, more than 70 concerts will take place in Bonn and at 31 surrounding venues. Some of them are quite unusual, such as old factory halls, castles or lecture halls. A trilogy of Ninth Symphonies by Dvorak, Bruckner and Beethoven with the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (DSO) will kick off this concert marathon.

A new generation of musicians is also at the start: A highlight of the festival is, for example, the debut concert of the oneMusic Orchestra under the direction of the Israeli conductor Yoel Gamzou. Founded as part of the Beethovenfest Fellowship project, the innovative orchestra has set itself the goal of performing at least 50% of its pieces as new compositions, created by composers who come from very different musical backgrounds, such as pop or electronic music. This way, the musicians want to work for a vibrant, sustainable future for their industry.

New formats, loyal partners

DW has been a stakeholder and media partner of the Beethovenfest for more than two decades and is breaking new ground together with the festival.

Among the new formats that the Beethovenfest and DW (in cooperation with ARD Kultur) have developed is, for example, the video series "Tiny House Concert," in which artistic director Steven Walter invites young renowned artists to his house near Bonn to exchange ideas and make music.

According to the creators, "the video series is aimed at an international audience between the ages of 18 and 50, at people interested in culture who like to cross borders and break with tradition. The first episodes can be viewed on the YouTube channel DW Classical Music.

Picture of young musicians holding diverse musical instruments at a rehearsal.
Young, diverse, international: Musicians of the Campus ProjectImage: Philipp Seliger/Beethovenfest-Bonn

Campus Project: Afghanistan and Iran

A classic in the Beethovenfest portfolio is the Campus Project, which is also developed in collaboration with DW. It has traveled half the world since its launch in 2001 and will now take place for the 22nd time.

This year, the focus is on Afghanistan and Iran.

The concert will take place in the auditorium of the University of Bonn on September 14, 2023 at 19:30 and will be streamed on the DW Classical Music YouTube channel, along with several other selected concerts of the festival.

This article was originally written in German.