Oxford Beethoven Festival 2020

Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director Marios Papadopolous lead the UK's most comprehensive Beethoven celebration
Various venues, January - December 2020
See the full programme on the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra website.

2020 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, and Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra are celebrating with an impressive undertaking: a year-long festival celebrating the composer's work. The festival has special significance for Oxford, since the city is twinned with Beethoven's birthplace: the German city of Bonn. Correspondingly, renowned musicians from all over the world will visit, joining the orchestra as they perform everything from chamber music to full orchestral works and opera. In addition, for the more academically-minded there will be a weekend-long symposium where experts will share the fruits of their latest research, and a piano masterclass from Oxford Philharmonic's Creative Director, pianist and conductor Marios Papadopoulos.

Beethoven is widely recognised among music historians as an innovative creative force who shaped the classical music that came after him, and he was fantastically prolific, so the range of concerts available to attend will appear to seasoned listeners and newcomers alike, with the option to discover the more obscure pieces alongside more familiar works like the popular 9th Symphony. Thanks to the Concert Access Fund for Students, full time students can access £5 tickets to all the concerts, while there's also a multi-buy discount for those with a longer wish-list of recitals in mind.

Events

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Jonathan Biss

This concert forms the first in a full survey of the sonatas from different pianists in recital.
St John the Evangelist Church

Oxford Beethoven Festival: TS Eliot Four Quartets

Jeremy Irons narrates TS Eliot's Four Quartets and OPO perform Beethoven String Quartet No. 15.
Sheldonian Theatre
Broad Street Oxford

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Takács Quartet

Iconic string quartet, Takács Quartet, perform Beethoven String Quartet Nos 6, 16, and 9.
Sheldonian Theatre
Broad Street Oxford

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Symphony & Concerto Cycle I

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 1, and Symphony No. 3, 'Eroica' Concert introduced by John Suchet
Sheldonian Theatre
Broad Street Oxford

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Symphony & Concerto Cycle II

Beethoven: Symphony Nos 1 & 5, and Piano Concerto No. 4.
Sheldonian Theatre
Broad Street Oxford

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Symphony & Concerto Cycle III

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3, Symphony No. 7.
Sheldonian Theatre
Broad Street Oxford

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Freddy Kempf

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Freddy Kempf, St John the Evangelist Church, Saturday 29 February 2020
Please note - due to injury John Lill has had to withdraw from this recital. Freddy Kempf will perform in his place, pplaying OPO's sonata cycle with the ‘Appassionata’ & the compact Sonata No. 22.
Sat 29th February, 7.30 - 9.35
£25 £20 £15 £10 (Students from £5)

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Beethoven & his Colleagues Recital I

OPO Principal Peter Adams & Magdalena Nasidlak perform Beethoven, Diabelli, and Mozart.
Holywell Music Room
Holywell Street Oxford
Fri 6th March, 7.30 - 9.30
£25 (students £5)

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Beethoven & his Colleagues Recital III

Associate Concertmasters Anna-Liisa Bezrodny & Charlotte Scott, & Diana Ketler perform ‘Appassionata'
Holywell Music Room
Holywell Street Oxford
Sat 7th March, 7:30 - 9:30pm
£25 (students £5)

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Beethoven & his Colleagues Recital II

OPO violinists Tamás András & Evgenia Epshtein, & pianist Katya Apekisheva perform Beethoven & more!
Holywell Music Room
Holywell Street Oxford
Sat 7th March, 3:00 - 5:00pm
£25 (students £5)

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Symphony & Concerto Cycle IV

Maxim Vengerov, Mischa Maisky & Sergei Babayan perform Beethoven's 'Triple' Concerto.
Sheldonian Theatre
Broad Street Oxford
Tue 12th May, 7:30 - 9:30pm
£40 £30 £20 (students from £5)

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Fidelio

Complete concert performance of Beethoven's Fidelio.
Sheldonian Theatre
Broad Street Oxford
Sun 31st May, 7:00 - 9:55pm
£40/£30/£20 (students from £5)

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Pastoral for the Planet

The OPO plays Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ on UN World Environment Day as orchestras worldwide do the same
Oxford Town Hall
St Aldate's Oxford
Fri 5th June, 7:30
£45/£35/£25/£15 (Students £5)

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Kristian Bezuidenhout

Kristian Bezuidenhout’s performs Beethoven piano works at University Church.
Sat 13th June, 7:30pm
£20/£15/£10

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Martha Argerich & Stephen Kovacevich

Two titans of the piano, Martha Argerich and Stephen Kovacevich perform at the Sheldonian Theatre.
Sheldonian Theatre
Broad Street Oxford
Sun 14th June, 7:30pm
£60/£40/£30/£20 (Students £5)

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Sir András Schiff

Sir András Schiff performs Beethovan's Piano Sonatas Nos 30 - 32 at the Sheldonian Theatre.
Sheldonian Theatre
Broad Street Oxford
Thu 18th June, 7:30
£50/£38/£28/£18 (Students £5)

Oxford Beethoven Festival: Mass in C major

The OPO perform Beethoven's Mass in C major, under the direction of Peter Tiboris.
Oxford Town Hall
St Aldate's Oxford
Wed 1st July, 7:30
£45/£35/£25/£15 (Students £5)

January 27, 2020
Perfection

Symphony & Concerto Cycle I, Sat 25th January 2020

Oxford is bursting with Beethoven. I take a stroll around the city on Saturday and (aside from being staggered at the number of tourists in town on an unprepossessing day in January) am happily taken aback by the multitude of posters advertising Beethoven events. On a whim, I duck into Keble to hear part of the piano sonata marathon being performed in the chapel – a sort of warm-up before the evening’s opening concert in the Oxford Beethoven Festival. I sit for an hour, taking in various delicacies from the 9th-12th Sonatas in the chapel’s painterly acoustic, before dipping back into the crowds to find somewhere for lunch.

At 7.30 I join a full house at the Sheldonian for a rather different Beethovian engagement. Tonight sees Marios Papadopoulos conducting the Oxford Philharmonic in Piano Concerto No. 1 (from the piano – he is also the soloist) and the 3rd Symphony. John Suchet energetically introduces the programme in a way that helps shape my listening – as Papadopoulos conducts the first couple of minutes of the Concerto, it’s clear how Beethoven had achieved a new clarity in the balance between soloist and orchestra. Papadopoulos’ sensitivity and intelligence is clear: he produces notes with the same freshness as if they were a brilliant idea that had just occurred to him. The first movement has the silvery precision of a pretty, wind-up bird, all inquisitiveness and expansion. The second movement sees a perfect sympathy between the piano and orchestra before the surprising warmth - and even, I’d say, humour - of the third movement. It’s a delightful opening and – after the mild drama in the interval of the removal of the piano, which gets its own applause – we’re attuned to this special partnership of conductor and orchestra, and eager for the Third Symphony.

John Suchet again introduces the work with helpful illustrative examples of exactly why it is viewed as such a pivotal moment in the development of the Romantic. For the next hour I can simply enjoy myself. The orchestra are clearly having a good time, too: throughout the piece I spot desk partners exchanging smiles, which, I realise, is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. The unusual acoustic of the Sheldonian (somewhere between drawing room and cruiseliner) actually works well: we don’t really need the reverberation afforded elsewhere. Clara Dent’s flawless oboe merits special attention, as does Philip Eastop’s horn; but the players at large are so joyously attuned to each other that the effect is of uniform excellence, no less exciting for its perfection.

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