PRESS RELEASE published on 16 Dec 2019

EBU landmark year of music begins with Beethoven 250th anniversary celebrations

In 2020, the world will be marking the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven. The German composer is the most frequently performed classical composer worldwide and interest in his music has remained unabated for centuries. Maverick, rebel, visionary - he remains just as relevant today. The year of celebrations will begin on 16 December 2019, culminating on what is widely believed to be the 250th anniversary of his birth, 16 December 2020.

For this landmark year, the EBU will be underlining its traditional and key role in enabling Members -and their audiences worldwide- to access diverse high-quality musical content. With a series of curated concerts, there will be multiple opportunities to re-discover, or even hear for the first time, the works of one of the world’s greatest composers. 


The Beethoven Collection – a curated selection of more than 100 concerts, operas and archive recordings from around the world and released at intervals to all EBU radio organizations.

The events feature some of the world’s biggest names in music: including Daniel Barenboim; Carlo Rizzi; Sir Simon Rattle; and Sir Mark Elder, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and soloists such as Joan Kaufmann, Anne Sophie Mutter, Paul Lewis and Frank Peter Zimmermann.

These concerts include a special event from Cologne on World Environment Day (5 June 2020), with world renowned conductor, Tan Dun, leading the WDR Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. 

And in December 2020, to coincide with Beethoven’s 250th birthdate, a special anniversary gala concert from Bonn – Beethoven’s birthplace - with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim. This closing concert will also be live-streamed. 

There will also be a unique audio sting commissioned by the EBU from renowned Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho and recorded with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and its Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo. The 90-second piece, entitled Chimera, has been inspired by Beethoven and will be broadcast in radio around the world, as well as performed in concert by many radio orchestras. Listen to it here.

Asked why it was so important to celebrate this anniversary, Sakari Oramo said: “Beethoven for me means a radical, world-changing, amazingly strong character as a composer. He was also a great humorist, with a great sense for dramatics and for lyrical beauty. His compositions contain everything from life and from the world.” 

Kaija Saariaho adds: “He was a genius. His music remains very fresh, very human. I admire his innovation, his skills as a composer, often using similar musical forms but interpreting them differently every time. This celebration is a good excuse to hear more those works not often performed in concert”.

Edward Blakeman, Head of Programmes, BBC Radio 3 and member of the EBU Music Group, said: “Kaija’s ‘Chimera’ is brilliant – a shimmering, multi-textured, mini-narrative inspired by Beethoven - and the more you hear it, the more details you find in it. This is something really distinctive, by a major European composer, for EBU Members to play during Beethoven Year!”

The EBU website will be updated with new Beethoven content throughout 2020. 

Pascale Labrie is Head of Music at the EBU: “For decades, the EBU and its Members have shared great music, across all genres, effectively creating the world’s biggest, virtual concert hall, benefiting millions of listeners.

“Music has no frontiers. It can be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere, without restrictions of language, enabling people to explore new horizons. This sense of joining together is fundamental to our work. Every year, the EBU opens up the world of music through music exchanges that serve the interests and tastes of millions of listeners globally. In keeping with that tradition, in 2020 we will be providing a range of music landmarks, both live performance and studio-based, with established artists and new talent, across every genre. It promises to be vintage year!”

Relevant Links

Beethoven 2020

Contact detail

Jo Waters
Senior Communications Officer
+41 22 717 2501