Celebrate Beethoven’s 250th In The Northwest

Celebrate Beethoven 250

2020 marks the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, and the world is saluting him with festivals, concerts and exhibitions all year long. Vienna and his birthplace – Bonn – are at the center of the festivities, but the Northwest is also celebrating the great composer, humanist, visionary and nature lover. Here are a few concerts you can look forward to in 2020.

The Olympia Symphony is programming one Beethoven work every concert for the rest of this season, which concludes April 18 with the revolutionary Symphony No. 5. February 9, March 15, April 18

Beethoven was one of the first great composers to write sonatas for cello. The cellist Colin Carr and pianist Thomas Sauer perform some of them plus sets of variations, as part of the Bellingham Music Club’s Night Beat Series. February 15

Generations of composers have drawn inspiration from Beethoven, and that’s the premise of the Auburn Symphony’s concert, Happy Birthday Beethoven! In addition to his Symphony No. 7, the program includes pieces by three American composers who were influenced by Beethoven: Leonard Bernstein, George Walker, and Aaron Copland. In what way? Attend the pre-concert talk with cellist Dave Beck to find out! February 16

In March, Symphony Tacoma is turning the focus on Beethoven the nature lover in light of today’s environmental crisis. Composer-in-Residence David Serkin Ludwig uses melodies borrowed from Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy for his new composition, Bleeding Pines. You’ll hear the two works side by side in March and the “Eroica” Symphony in February. February 22, March 21

Beethoven was known in Vienna as a master at the keyboard, but his instrument was not the grand piano seen in concert halls today; he played the fortepiano. You can hear the instrument in action at the Skagit Early Keyboard Museum in La Conner. As part of the Salish Sea Early Music Festival, renowned historical keyboardist Hans-Jürgen Schnoor will play a Viennese grand fortepiano built in 1814, the same year Beethoven made his last public performance as pianist. March 1 and 15

Philharmonia Northwest and Kirkland Choral Society are honoring Beethoven’s life and resilience by examining one of his darkest times: as he was coming to terms with his devastating hearing loss. The concert opens with Jake Runestad’s A Silence Haunts Me, including a poem inspired by Beethoven’s “Heiligenstadt Testament.” Also on the program: the heroic Overture to Egmont, Choral Fantasy, and Mass in C Major. April 18

The Yakima Symphony Orchestra’s season finale concert is both a Beethoven Bash and a celebration of the YSO. The program, including Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Symphony No. 8, and Choral Fantasy, is a recreation of the concert that led to the creation of the YSO 50 years ago. May 30

The Seattle Symphony’s Beethoven Festival presents all nine symphonies over three weeks, but that’s not all. The Symphony is getting the whole community involved, with a new composition by some King County teens, a work honoring the land and history of the Pacific Northwest performed with artists of the Puget Sound’s first nations, and a celebration of people of all abilities coming together featuring community members from Northwest Center. June 11-28

In addition to Beethoven’s 250th, 2020 also marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, giving women the constitutional right to vote. The Bellingham Festival of Music will begin their summer festival with works by some of today’s leading female composers – Joan Tower, Jennifer Higdon, and Caroline Shaw – during the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Celebration Weekend. Then the focus turns to Beethoven with his complete cycle of Piano Concertos and more. The festival will conclude with Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. July 3-23