Moonlighting at the Beethovenfest

The earth's satellite has inspired many works of art, literature and music — and the coming season of the Beethovenfest in Bonn. The playbill from September 6-19 has now been announced.

A scarcely-known comic opera by Joseph Haydn about a flight to the moon. Mozart's Serenata Notturna. A weekend of nocturnal music. Arnold Schönberg's Pierrot Lunaire and Transfigured Night.

Introducing the program in Bonn on Thursday, director Nike Wagner called the festival motto "Moonlight" "a silver thread running through the festival fabric."

The motto also suggests a moment of contemplation and energy intake before the year-long festivities in 2020, 250 years after Ludwig van Beethoven's birth in Bonn.

Fitting works on the program from Debussy's quiet Claire de lune to Mussorgsky's screeching Night on Bald Mountain, "Moonlight" turns out to be a richly inspiring and fruitful terrain for the 2019 Beethovenfest Bonn.

Rarities on the program include a seldom-performed oratorio by Robert Schumann and a version of Beethoven's opera Fidelio rendered by a puppet theater.

But after having been hacked through by millions of piano students and used to underline dreamy moments in countless films, Beethoven's Sonata quasi una fantasia, which someone else nicknamed Moonlight Sonata, will unfold its dreamy charm as well. It will be heard three times at this fall's Beethovenfest: once on a modern grand piano in a recital by the French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, once on a historic fortepiano as rendered by the Dutch pianist Ronald Brautigam, and once in a modern version for horn and piano.

Rolf Rische and Nike Wagner

From world premiere to mainstream

Mentioning 20 years of close cooperation between the Beethovenfest and Deutsche Welle, Rolf Rische, head of the DW's Culture and Lifestyle department, gave details of this year's Campus Project at Thursday's press conference in Bonn.

Whereas last year's project with India as the guest country was all about rhythm, this time, with South Africa, the focus is on choral singing. Joined by the National Youth Orchestra of Germany, two a cappella groups — one from Germany and one from South Africa — will premiere a work commissioned by DW from the 28-year-old South African saxophonist and composer Tshepo Tsotetsi.

Among all these unusual and even heretofore unheard works, Beethoven aficionados should also find what they're looking for on the playbill, which includes five of Beethoven's nine symphonies, three of his piano concertos, the violin concerto and three of his piano sonatas.

Among the groups scheduled to perform are the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by Adam Fischer, the Camerata Salzburg, the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra Moscow.

Prominent soloists include the pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Louis Lortie and Fazil Say, Lieder singers Christian Gerhaher and Sarah Maria Sun and violinist Carolin Widmann.

With altogether 24,000 tickets available for 46 concerts in Bonn and the surrounding region, roughly 39 percent of the total budget of €4.6 million ($5.16 million) comes from public sources, the rest largely from ticket sales and from corporate sponsors.