SPAC to present month-long virtual Beethoven 2020 festival

Month-long event celebrate’s 250th anniversary of composer’s birth with all nine symphonies
Jonathan Biss
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Jonathan Biss

Categories: Entertainment, Life & Arts

The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is slated to host a month-long virtual Beethoven 2020 festival.

Celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, the festival will feature a recital with Jonathan Biss, a concert with Philadelphia Orchestra musicians, a theatrical performance, a lecture series and more. 

While SPAC canceled its traditional season earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, it has been moving forward with its SPAC Reimagined season, featuring virtual performances. 

“SPAC’s planned presentation of the complete Beethoven symphony cycle with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin was slated to be some of our most important programming of the season,” said Elizabeth Sobol, SPAC’s president and CEO

“Instead, we are honoring the great composer with a season-long virtual festival and a completely new online platform with all nine symphonies, an exclusive concert with Jonathan Biss, a special lecture series, our gorgeous SPAC REIMAGINED ballet shorts set to his music and much more. It is our hope that this curated collection will still provide a profound and deeply moving musical experience — just in a new format.”

The performances and other content are available at SPACBeethoven.org. Some events will also feature a members-only lawn screening. 

The schedule:

8 p.m. Saturday, August 8: CMS Front Row: Summer Evenings
The event will feature performance videos from the Chamber Music Society archive, interviews on how the musicians’ lives have changed during COVID-19 and a Q&A with a featured musician. 

8 p.m. Friday, August 14: Beethoven Symphony Watch Party with The Philadelphia Orchestra
The orchestra performed Beethoven’s fifth and sixth symphonies to an empty Verizon Hall on March 12, as it was canceling many of its concerts due to COVID-19. The performance will be shown as part of the festival.

8 p.m. Saturday, August 15: Caffe Lena “Stay Home Session” with Philadelphia Orchestra musicians
Featuring musicians Hai-Ye Ni (cello), Rachel Ku (viola) and Yu-Ting Chen (violin), the concert was filmed at Caffe Lena and will feature a program dedicated to Beethoven. It will be available on Caffe Lena’s YouTube page.

7 p.m. Monday, August 17 and Tuesday, August 18: Symposium on Beethoven’s “Fidelio” presented by Opera Saratoga
Led by Cori Ellison, the event will explore French rescue opera, Beethoven’s blueprint for “Fidelio” and the recorded legacy of the piece. It will also feature short performances by Opera Saratoga’s Festival Artists and Alumni. Advanced registration is required: operasaratoga.org.

8 p.m. Friday, August 21: Jonathan Biss: In Concert & Conversation 
Biss is a renowned interpreter of Beethoven’s music. While his originally scheduled performances at SPAC were curtailed due to the virus, he recorded a program in his New York City home to share with the SPAC audience. He will take viewers through Beethoven’s sonatas for solo piano, including a performance of two of his favorite works.

8 p.m. Saturday, August 22: “Testament” presented in collaboration with Saratoga Shakespeare Company
The world premiere of this theatrical production will explore Beethoven as a young composer and his struggle as he loses his hearing. It follows him as he leaves Vienna and plans his suicide, and emerges with the Eroica Symphony. 

Exploring the healing power of art, the work was written by playwright Damian Lanigan and commissioned by Saratoga Shakespeare Company. It will be available to stream on SPACBeethoven.org or saratogashakespeare.org.

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