It’s the 250th anniversary of Beethoven, and the famed composer’s face is all over Bonn, Germany to remind its residents and guests that Beethoven was born there in Bonn in 1770. Beethoven gets associated with Vienna, as that’s where he composed his greatest works, but you should never forget that his career started in Bonn. So, Bonn is celebrating Beethoven 2020 in style, putting Beethoven’s face in many traffic lights, creating Beethoven art around the city, and setting up many special concerts and events. They also renovated and opened many new Beethoven activities and exhibitions. So, Bonn is the place to see in 2020. And the Lonely Planet agrees, naming Bonn one of the top destinations to visit this year.
I recently visited Bonn to celebrate Beethoven 2020, and I learned so many fantastic things about Bonn and the great Beethoven. Find below the best ways to celebrate Beethoven from within Bonn and the other ways to celebrate if you can’t make it there.
How to Celebrate Beethoven in Bonn
Trace Beethoven’s Steps in a “Beethoven Walking Tour”
Beethoven spent the first 22 years of his life in Bonn, Germany. So, you can trace his footsteps and see the sights that inspired Beethoven as he grew up. This will help you to get more into his mind and see things from his point of view as he was living here developing his mind. You can take a flyer and follow the map yourself, as everything is easy to walk to in a close proximity or you can schedule a guided tour which lasts between 1.5 to 2 hours. Be guided around the city and see the Beethoven House, Remigius Church, Zehrgarten Inn, Remigius Square, Electoral Court Chapel, Rhine Promenade, Breuning House, the Beethoven Monument, the Old Cemetery, La Redoute, Draitschquelle, Alfter, Mechenheim, and many other places with histories attached to Ludwig van Beethoven.
If you don’t want a fully Beethoven-centric tour, there are regular walking tours around the city with interesting information, as well. For instance, see the University (which used to be the royal palace) which has a “blessed” Golden Madonna Statue on it. The statue has survived three catastrophes and still stands to tell its tale, making it appear blessed to many. First, it survived a fire that wiped 2/3 of the building. Next, the French tried to take her down with horses and ropes during their occupancy in Bonn, but nothing they could do would bring her down. So, they developed a respect for her and kept her up. Finally, she survived the invasion of bombers in 1944 during World War 2 where 80% of the center city was destroyed. So, she is a sign of hope for many.
Visit the Beethoven Haus
The Beethoven House (or Beethoven-Haus) is a museum like no other, as it gives you the ability to celebrate Beethoven’s life and work in his original setting. You see, this is the house where Beethoven was born in. And, if you’ve been there before, you should make the trip back, as it was just newly remodeled and has reopened with its new permanent exhibition with additional rooms. This new exhibition gives you access to more than 200 unique and original exhibits from or related to Beethoven including manuscripts, instruments, items from his daily life, compositions and notes, his ear trumpets, and some portraits. The Beethoven House proudly hosts the largest collection of Beethoven memorabilia in one place. And the newly remodeled exhibit presents everything in an interesting and modern way with its use of lights and cases. The shop and café across the street is a clean and exciting place to stop in during your Beethoven celebration, as well.
Attend the “Beethoven- World.Citizen.Music” Exhibit at the Bundeskunsthalle
From now until April 26, 2020, the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn is presenting the exhibit “Beethoven- World.Citizen.Music” which presents Beethoven in a way that no one has before. The exhibit focuses on three different aspects of Beethoven so the viewer can truly be immersed in his journey to understand how the composer lived and what inspired him in his music. It truly is an exhibit like no other, bringing Beethoven to life in 2020. The purpose of the exhibit is to have the public see him as a real human with feelings, passion, and thoughts. This way, people stop thinking of him as a composer they read about in the books and see him as a well-rounded human being who lived and breathed like the rest of us. The exhibit focuses on Beethoven the “Citizen”, which references his position in society and how it affected his life and work. And it focuses as well on his “Music” which presents him as a composer and encourages guests to understand his works more by experiencing them throughout the years of his career. And it focuses on the “World” around him and how that effected his experiences, as well. It’s something that has to be seen in person, so head over there before it’s too late!
Other Upcoming Events in Bonn Inspired by Beethoven
2020 will continue on strong with countless events all inspired by Beethoven. Many of them are special concerts and musical events. Many non-musical focused events will feature Beethoven, as well, in an attempt to bring non-classical-music-lovers into the Beethoven mix. For instance, Karenval’s theme this year was Beethoven, and the theme for Rhine in Flammen will be Beethoven, as well! And many special concerts and honored guests will be coming up, too. Be sure to follow the #Bthvn2020 hashtag for upcoming Beethoven events, as well as the Beethoven 2020 website here: https://bthvn2020.de/programm/verstaltungen-suchen/
Other Ways to Celebrate Beethoven from Afar
250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven
For Beethoven’s 250th Anniversary, pianist Susanne Kessel invited 250 composers from around the world to each compose a piano piece inspired by Beethoven in some way. (And now the project has increased to 260 composers). These composers range from 10 years old to 80 years old, and each piece written is unique and related to Beethoven in some way. Susanne’s project was a huge undertaking, having started in 2013, and is a project of passion and love. Susanne played a few select pieces for us in Bonn, and they were truly moving. So, to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th anniversary with someone who has such a strong passion for music and Beethoven’s work, follow Susanne and attend one of her concerts for the anniversary project. If you are in Bonn, try to time your trip with one of her performances. Or, if you are unable to attend, purchase her first CD of the project and celebrate Beethoven from anywhere around the world. This is especially important as it shows us how Beethoven’s pieces are affecting modern composers working in today’s world.
2020 is going to be a great year for Beethoven’s legacy as well as the city of Bonn. There are too many great events coming up to list or post here, so be sure to follow all of their happens. And I wish you all the best Beethoven celebrations you can experience in 2020.