WQXR, New York City’s classical music station, today announced Beethoven Immortal, five days of special programming exploring the legacy of Ludwig van Beethoven, in honor of his 250th birthday. The festival airs Saturday, December 12 – Wednesday, December 16.
Beethoven Immortal explores the question: What does Beethoven mean today? He experienced profound isolation set against the backdrop of a world grappling with social change and economic uncertainty. As we enter the final weeks of 2020 — a tumultuous year spent largely isolated from one another — WQXR invites listeners to rediscover the resonance of Beethoven’s revolutionary work and the power of music to bring people together.
Broadly accessible on air at 105.9FM and online at www.wqxr.org, Beethoven’s music will fill the air over the course of five days, with classic performances, new interpretations, and reflections each hour, honoring the iconic musician and bringing listeners closer to his work.
At the heart of the festival is “Quest for Joy,” a four-part series conceived, curated and hosted by conductor and MacArthur “Genius” Marin Alsop. The lyrical one-hour episodes explore Beethoven’s music through the increasing isolation he experienced because of his hearing loss, showcasing the surprisingly prolific and expansive work that followed, and illuminating how his solitude nurtured a rich inner life that gave rise to a grand musical vision, culminating in the magisterial Ninth Symphony. Together with guests including Beethoven biographer Jan Swafford; Dr. Charles Limb, Professor of Otolaryngology; and Alsop’s friend and occasional collaborator, renowned pianist Paul Lewis, Alsop takes listeners through a musical journey of Beethoven’s grief and despair, yearning for connection, and ultimate triumph. WQXR’s Elliott Forrest will introduce each episode. (Sunday, Dec. 13 – Wednesday, Dec. 16 @ 6 pm ET & 11 pm ET)
Additional festival highlights include:
- Metropolitan Opera Radio Broadcast: The festival opens with an archival broadcast from The Metropolitan Opera of Beethoven’s Fidelio, the only opera he completed and a story about the meaning of loyalty, liberty and freedom from tyranny. The cast includes Adrianne Pieczonka as Leonore, Klaus Florian Vogt as Florestan, and Greer Grimsley as Don Pizarro, conducted by Sebastian Weigle. (Saturday, Dec. 12 @ 1pm ET)
- “Black Experience in the Concert Hall”: That same night, WQXR’s Terrance McKnight will host a special hour of his ongoing series, bringing new perspectives to Beethoven, the man, the myth and the music. Featured guests include pianist Stewart Goodyear and violinist Tai Murray. (Saturday, Dec. 12 @ 7pm ET & Wednesday, Dec. 16 @ 10pm ET)
- “Beethoven at the Philharmonic”: Listeners will hear recordings of Beethoven’s symphonies from the New York Philharmonic, interpreted by its various music directors over the years including Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, Alan Gilbert, and Jaap van Zweden. (Each day @ noon ET)
- “The Open Ears Project”: We revisit Beethoven-themed episodes of The Open Ears Project, WQXR’s critically-acclaimed podcast created by Clemency Burton-Hill, in which people share the classical music that means the most to them and why. Guests include Wynton Marsalis, Nicola Benedetti, Terrance McKnight, and a brand new episode with British entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox. (Sunday, Dec. 13 – Wednesday, Dec. 16 @ 1pm ET)
- “Beethoven Bingo”: WQXR continues its commitment to educate children and families with this fun way to listen and learn about classical music throughout the festival
- “Contemporary Reflections of Beethoven”: New Sounds host John Schaefer will honor Beethoven with an episode exploring how living composers have been inspired by his work. Program to air on WQXR’s sister station WNYC 93.9 FM and online at NewSounds.org. (Wednesday, Dec. 16 @ 11pm ET)
“It was a joy to create these shows with my friends at WQXR during this important anniversary year,” said Marin Alsop. “Beethoven was a genius who desperately desired human connection, but due to his profound hearing loss, was unable to make those connections. He experienced severe isolation and loneliness yet somehow maintained his optimism and belief in the goodness of humanity. He is a hero for 2020 and can give us all hope and strength.”
“Record labels have feasted on Beethoven’s music for decades. But they’ve rarely captured African American instrumentalists performing his work – despite its unabashed plea for humanity,” said Terrance McKnight. “Stewart Goodyear and Tai Murray are two Black artists who have broken through that barrier. Stewart recently became the first African American pianist to record Beethoven’s complete Piano Sonatas. Violinist Tai Murray’s recent recording of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata — a work that premiered in 1803 with African-European artist George Bridgetower on the violin — may indeed be the first commercial recording of this sonata by an African American violinist, over 200 years later. I’m thrilled to have them join me for the next edition of “Black Experience in the Concert Hall” to talk about their connection to Beethoven’s life and work.”
“At a time when many global celebrations of Beethoven have been postponed or cancelled due to the reality of the current condition, the WQXR team strives again to provide inspiration, wonder and optimism through our special programming,” WQXR Chief Content Officer Ed Yim said. “We are delighted not only to feature Beethoven’s great music, but also to spotlight two iconic New York institutions — the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic — and to welcome back one of the most important musicians of our time, Marin Alsop, to share her musical insight and perspective with our listeners.”
Beethoven Immortal airs Saturday, December 12 – Wednesday, December 16 on WQXR 105.9 FM and will stream online at WQXR.org.
Full programming schedule available here.