Advanced Television

BBC unveils year-long Beethoven season

January 13, 2020

The BBC has unveiled further programming as part of a year-long pan-BBC season, Beethoven Unleashed, to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of one of the world’s most celebrated composers.

New programming includes a three-part series, Being Beethoven (working title) for BBC Four which, instead of approaching the composer through the prism of his music, will seek to return Beethoven to the context of his own time and place. The series will tell Beethoven’s life story in the present tense, reimagining how might have experienced day-to-day life. BBC Four will also broadcast the upcoming production of Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, from the Royal Opera House.

On BBC Radio 3, presenter Donald Macleod will undertake a Beethoven marathon, with 125 hours of Composer Of The Week – the most ever dedicated to a single artist. Composer Of The Week will feature insights from Sir Simon Schama, conductor Marin Alsop and many more. The station has also commissioned a new drama, Beethoven Can Hear You, by Forest 404 creator Timothy X Atack, which will endeavour to give audiences the chance to follow Beethoven’s journey of hearing loss.

Context to Beethoven’s times will also be explored with Dr Kate Kennedy in Unseen Vienna on BBC Radio 3, which will shine a light on Beethoven’s female contemporaries who have since been largely overlooked by history. Also on Radio 3, Dissecting Beethoven will seek to learn more about the composer from the results of the autopsy carried out after his death, with presenter Georgia Mann joined by eminent neurosurgeon Henry Marsh CBE.

Live performances of Beethoven’s music from BBC orchestras and choirs around the UK will also feature alongside works by his contemporaries and new compositions inspired by the composer including a recreation of Beethoven’s famed four-hour long 1808 concert and David Lang’s new opera prisoner of the state, a modern re-telling of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio.

These are just some of the highlights in a year-long focus, as part of Beethoven Unleashed on BBC television, BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds, with more content to be announced in due course.

Alan Davey, Controller Radio 3 & Classical Music at the BBC, says: “This unique celebration will offer audiences an opportunity to explore the achievements of Beethoven afresh and understand his continued relevance today. From the latest research into his life to concerts of excellence, there’s something for everyone.”

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