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2020 pays homage to Beethoven

As 2020 marks the 250th anniversary of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s birth, various recitals and concerts are taking place across the world in remembrance of the great musician from the 18th century.

Korea is of course no exception in paying tribute to Beethoven. The classical music scene has already been pumped and primed in anticipation, gearing up for a big celebration. Although Beethoven’s music has already been frequently played in musical presentations here, such instances have doubled or tripled in recent months. 

Pianist Kim Sun-wook (Vincero)
Pianist Kim Sun-wook (Vincero)

In 2020, even more Beethoven will be featured, as Beethoven specialists are to pay visits to Korea and orchestras are working up new programs in homage of the great musician.

One of the most keenly awaited presentations is that of conductor Teodor Currentzis and his MusicAeterna. MusicAeterna will hit the stage of Lotte Concert Hall on April 7 and 8 for the first time in Korea. The conductor, born in Greece and trained in Russia, has been making a splash across the classical music scene for his bold approaches toward music interpretation.

Commemorating the prolific artist, the program includes Beethoven’s Violin Concerto featuring violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and symphonies No. 5 and No. 7. Currentzis’ unusual interpretation will offer a new perspective on the well-known, often-heard pieces.

The Beethoven Orchester Bonn -- based in Bonn, Germany where Beethoven was born -- will take the stage at the Seoul Arts Center on June 9, presenting an “All Beethoven” concert. 

Conductor Dirk Kaftan (Irene Zandel)
Conductor Dirk Kaftan (Irene Zandel)

Under the baton of artistic director Dirk Kaftan, the orchestra will present Beethoven’s Egmont overture, Symphony No. 7 and Piano Concerto No. 4, featuring pianist Paik Kun-woo.

Conductor Paavo Jarvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie will wrap the year up at the Seoul Arts Center on Dec. 17 and 18, presenting Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 and No. 9 “Choral.” “Choral” is considered Beethoven’s masterpiece, written after the composer had completely lost his hearing.

For those who would like to hear more of “Choral,” the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and its new artistic director Osmo Vanska will also present the piece at the Lotte Concert Hall on Dec. 19 and 20.

For soloists, Austrian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja goes on stage in April, playing Beethoven’s piano sonata No. 30 to No. 32. Pianist Kim Sun-wook will present the same program on March 6 at the Seoul Arts Center, adding Andante for Piano in F major “Andante Favori” WoO 57 to the list. 

Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder (Vincero)
Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder (Vincero)

Rudolf Buchbinder, the Beethoven specialist, takes the stage on Sept. 23 and 26 at the Seoul Arts Center. The solo pianist in his twilight years will lead the Lucerne Festival Strings and also play the piano solo, to deliver all five of Beethoven’s piano concerto pieces. The 73-year-old pianist has put on more than 50 performances of Beethoven’s complete 32 sonata cycle. He often says that Beethoven is the center of his life.

Cello master Mischa Maisky will present a new repertoire of Variations for Cello and Piano in E-flat major on a Theme from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” on Sept. 22 at the Seoul Arts Center.

The Korea National Opera will stage Beethoven’s only opera, “Fidelio,” at the Seoul Arts Center Oct. 22-25.

The opera centers on a character named Leonore, who disguises herself as a prison guard named Fidelio in an attempt to save her husband, political prisoner Florestan.

Though the main story revolves around Leonore saving her husband, the plot also touches on the subjects of liberty, justice and political movements.

By Im Eun-byel (