by Jeannine Williamson, The Telegraph, March 4, 2020
This year marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the world’s best-known and most played composers. Although the exact date of his birth in Bonn is unknown, he was baptised on 17 December, 1770, and as a seven-year-old child prodigy made his first public appearance playing the piano in a concert in Cologne. He went on to compose some 700 works including the opera Fidelio, nine symphonies, five piano concertos, numerous choral pieces and chamber music.
During this commemorative year a river cruise is an easy way for Beethoven fans to celebrate his legacy along the banks of the Rhine and Danube. Many regular voyages take in the places where he lived and played, and there are also special themed sailings.
What can you see and do in Bonn related to Beethoven?
The 12 atmospheric rooms in the newly restored and reopened Beethoven-Haus museum commemorate the life and works of the great virtuoso with the world’s largest collection of Beethoven artefacts. They include manuscripts, letters, paintings, furniture and his last pianoforte made by the renowned Viennese piano maker Conrad Graf. The gardens feature several busts of Beethoven.
The landmark central statue on Münsterplatz was unveiled in 1845 to honour the 75th anniversary of the composer’s birth, and in the grounds of Beethoven Hall (currently closed for refurbishment until 2022) stands Klaus Kammerich’s striking contemporary sculpture of Beethoven’s head. In Rheinaue Park visitors can admire an usual reclining statue which originally a conceptual design for a larger monument in Berlin.
A downloadable self-guided walking trail, taking in 16 sights such as Saint Remigius Church where he was baptized and the Redoute ballroom where he first played for Joseph Haydn in 1792, is available from the Bonn Tourism Office.
Beethovenfest 2020 runs from March 13 to 22 and to September 4 to 27 with concerts featuring international orchestras, ensembles and soloists at more than 20 venues around the city.
What can you see and do in Vienna related to Beethoven?
After first visiting at the age of 17, Beethoven moved to Vienna permanently aged 22, as a pupil of Haydn, and stayed in the Austrian capital until his death in 1827 – moving house an incredible 67 times. During that time led the Viennese classical period to its peak but also paved the way for the music of the Romantic period.
The three city-run museums devoted to Beethoven are the Pasqualati House Museum, where he lived for eight years and composed some of his most famous symphonies, the Eroica House Museum dedicated to his famous Third Symphony, and Beethoven Museum where he lived when he realised his deafness would not improve. Exhibits include a box placed on his grand piano to amplify the sound.
The large city map in the House of Music illustrates how many times Beethoven moved house and the interactive museum will be hosting special exhibitions throughout the year.
Gustav Klimt's spectacular 34m Beethoven Frieze hangs in the distinctive gold-domed Secession building and his grave can be found in a prominent spot at the Central Cemetery.
For a really authentic musical experience, the orchestra from RESOUND Beethoven play his compositions on the instruments of his time, with the same number of musicians, and in the same venues where the composer performed his music. The calendar of special events for 2020 includes the Beethoven Moves exhibition combining paintings, sculptures and music which runs from March 25 to July 5 at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Any other significant sites linked to Beethoven on the Rhine, Main and Danube?
Beethoven’s mother, Maria Magdalena, was born in Koblenz, situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle, and the 17th century house is now a museum with everyday objects of the time, instruments and an exhibition on Beethoven’s youth, friendships and final years in Vienna.
The temple-like Walhalla memorial, located high above the Danube near Regensburg, is the hall of fame of German history and culture and houses a bust of Beethoven.
In Frankfurt, on the Main, the imposing Beethoven statue in Taunusanlage Park was designed by leading German figure sculptor Georg Kolbe between 1926 and 1948.
For hardcore fans, here are two immersive themed voyages:
Saga’s 11-night Celebrating 250 Years of Beethoven cruise on Dutch Melody. From £1,799pp, including talks by newsreader and John Suchet, with a complimentary copy of his book Beethoven: The Man Revealed per booking, concerts, visit to the Beethoven House Museum, coach or air travel and VIP door-to-door transport, departing October 19, 2020 (travel.saga.co.uk).
Jules Verne’s seven-night Beethoven’s 250th cruise on Amadeus Silver III. From £2,795pp, including a visit to Beethoven’s birthplace, concerts on board and ashore, talks by music expert Antonella Placheta and flights, departing October 27, 2020 (vjv.com).