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Germany to celebrate Ludwig van Beethoven's 250th birth anniversary
Image: Bundeskunsthalle/Beethoven Haus Bonn
Music

Germany prepares to celebrate Beethoven year

Rick Fulker
December 14, 2019

Germany is organizing big celebrations to commemorate the 250th birth anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven. Hundreds of music concerts and exhibitions are planned, and the government even views it as a "national duty."

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Over €40 million ($44 million) is the price tag for the funds the German government has earmarked for celebrating Ludwig van Beethoven's 250th birth anniversary year. The year of celebrations begins on Monday, December 16 — believed to be his 249th birthday — and ends on December 17, 2020. 

Days before the start of the celebrations, visitors were given a preview of the special exhibition "Beethoven. World. Citizen. Music" at the National Art Gallery in Bonn and of the renovated house where the composer was born.

Read more: Beethovenfest: Composers, their fates, their music

The celebrations start on Monday, with an official opening at the Bonn Opera. Concerts, opera performances, festivals and exhibitions honoring the composer are going to take place nationwide through out the year. 

Visit the Beethoven House in Bonn

'A big birthday bash'

Malte Boecker, director of the Beethoven Anniversary Society, told DW about the need to organize such celebrations and appreciate Beethoven's music. "Only a tiny part of Beethoven's total works are widely familiar," Boecker said. "We've initiated a number of projects that present him in unusual contexts beyond the concert hall."

Read more: How a computer can complete Beethoven's Tenth Symphony

That includes a nationwide series of house concerts on the weekend preceding the Beethoven year. "We've invited people in Germany to open their houses to private Beethoven-related concerts and events to celebrate Beethoven in their living rooms or in their kitchens. Over 800 private hosts responded. It's a big birthday bash." This format, said Boecker, better fits the composer's intended setting: "His chamber music was not written for concert halls, but for performance at home." 

Ludwig van Beethoven's House in Bonn
After three years of extensive renovation, Beethoven's home in Bonn is reopening to the public as a museumImage: David Ertl

Beethoven House redone

At the start of the anniversary year and after three years of extensive renovation, Beethoven's home in Bonn is reopening to the public as a museum. 

With about 100,000 visitors a year, it is called Germany's most often visited musician museum. And the number of visitors is bound to rise in the anniversary year. The in-house museum has been redone.

Instead of showing artifacts from the composer's life in a chronological manner, each room is now dedicated to a different theme, be it his daily routine, the most important persons in his life, or his work routine and struggle for artistic perfection.

Museum director Nicole Kämpken describes it as an "emotional approach." Would Ludwig van Beethoven have approved? "I certainly hope so," said Kämpken, "because here you can get to know him as a human being. After all, Beethoven longed to be understood. We try to achieve exactly that, from the standpoint of the people who come here from all over the world."

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