Designing the Beethoven tour

A word on the project’s nine concert programmes by conductor Jan Caeyers

The Beethoven27 project will take all participants – performers and audience alike – on a journey through Beethoven's life and music. Through the exploration of 27 key compositions, the project vividly portrays Beethoven’s evolution as an artist. Although initially his orchestral compositions were a natural extension of his activities as a piano virtuoso, after the 1802 ‘Heiligenstadt crisis’ triggered by his struggles with increasing deafness, composing new music became a life goal in itself for Beethoven. As a result, his music became ever more groundbreaking, culminating in such utopian works as the Hammerklavier sonata, the Ninth Symphony and the Missa solemnis.

The Beethoven27 project is centred around nine programmes or ‘tableaux’ that chronologically illustrate the development of Beethoven's life and music. Each programme follows a similar structure, combining one of the nine symphonies with a concertante work, alongside a keyboard sonata or a chamber work that shares thematic or historical connections. This approach stems from the belief that the increasingly groundbreaking quality of Beethoven's musical thinking always originated from his pianistic brain, and that the evolution of his orchestral music should be understood from this perspective.

Herein also lies the motivation to invite Kit Armstrong, a prodigious talent hailing from America but now residing in Europe, to act as the project’s second figurehead alongside Jan Caeyers. His natural combination of a composer’s career and pianistic virtuosity makes him the ideal embodiment of Beethoven’s own life mission. Furthermore, his exceptional humanistic belief in the power of music and musicians in the world enhances the spiritual dimensions of the Beethoven project.

To open each programme, Kit Armstrong will perform a prelude and fugue from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier in the key of the opening work by Beethoven. More than a mere historical nod to the significance of iconic keyboard music in Beethoven's musical education, this programming choice reflects an awareness of one of Beethoven’s core axioms: that innovation is meaningful only when based on a thorough mastery of past achievements. Additionally, however, the invocation of Bach can also act as an opening ritual, helping players and audiences to leave the mundane world behind, and focus their ears and minds on a world of elevated sonic exploration.

Finally, the nine core programmes and 27 key works are framed by a prologue and an epilogue featuring Beethoven’s two great choral masterpieces: the Ninth Symphony and the Missa solemnis. These works, whose transcendental significance extends far beyond the musical, underscore the political and ideological ambitions of the Beethoven27 project: to unite the citizens of the 27 EU member states, and to strive together for a better world under the motto, ‘Alle Menschen werden Brüder!’

Designing the Beethoven tour

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