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Festival: Beethovenfest Bonn


September 4th – 27th, 2020

‘Moonlight’: thus the motto of the 2019 Beethovenfest. What looks at first like a wry allusion to the ‘Moonlight Sonata’ turns out to be fruitful terrain for this year’s programme.

No poet could resist the silvery glow of the earth’s satellite, still less any composer. It transforms the shape of our world. ‘Moonlight’ is a romantic theme par excellence. It was made to order for the new subjectivity of experience that emerged around the year 1800 and led, in the course of the 19th century, to ever-deeper probes of pleasure and pain in feeling and orchestral colour.

Beethoven stands at the point of transition. He was thoroughly familiar with the genre of nocturnes and serenades, of romances and Nachtmusik of the sort that found its most skilful practitioner in Mozart. We will devote an entire weekend to these charming ‘preliminary run-ups’ of light music. But Beethoven was already more interested in ‘expression of feeling’ than in physical depictions of Nature. His ‘Pastorale’ unleashes a thunderstorm, as it were, in his own heart. We will hear this seminal work of the 2019 season in various acoustical guises. Much the same applies to the C-sharp minor of the ‘Moonlight Sonata.

But the symphony after Beethoven also has its ‘Pastorale’. Gustav Mahler’s Seventh abounds in birdsong, horn calls and the strains of a mandolin. But now they are invoked as otherworldly visions. Visions also dominate Modest Mussorgsky’s ‘Night on Bald Mountain’, where witches hold sway and have the final word. In Schoenberg’s ‘Transfigured Night’, by contrast, a man and a woman gradually come together, poco a poco crescendo …

Moonlight also leaves room for strangeness, oddities and the bizarre. Aribert Reimann transforms Schumann and Brahms; Giselher Klebe entrusts the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata to a French horn; Enno Poppe ventures onto the Beethoven Violin Concerto; and Beethoven’s Mass in C is interspersed with works by Nono and Lachenmann. A ‘Pierrot’ gets up to his nocturnal tricks, while Brecht and Weill tell of Louisiana, ‘where the waters of the Mississippi flow beneath the moon …’

Great performers will also grace this year’s Beethovenfest. We juxtapose the sound of the modern orchestra alongside ‘original sound’, present world premières, offer theatre and dance, outreach and jazz, and, as always, lots of Beethoven.

My deep gratitude goes to all those donors, sponsors and foundations who made our festival possible – and of course to Beethovenfest aficionados everywhere!

Nike Wagner, Director

For full information, visit the Beethovenfest Bonn Website.

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