Ludwig van Beethoven is thought to be the world’s most-played classical composer. To mark his 250th birthday, the Bundeskunsthalle, in cooperation with the Beethoven Haus Bonn, is presenting the central exhibition of the anniversary year 2020.

The exhibition traces the chronology of the key events of Beethoven’s life and correlates them with his musical oeuvre. The central focus is on the historical figure of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) in the context of his time. The exhibition also takes a closer look at the well-worn cliché of the lonely genius and Beethoven’s stylisation of himself as the ‘first free composer’.

The central narrative is underpinned by a series of select special focus sections that explore, for example, the network of Beethoven’s private and business contacts, his health as well as the particulars of his living and working conditions. Audio stations invite visitors to listen to key compositions and to immerse themselves in Beethoven’s musical cosmos. The exhibition offers the musical and historical background to the numerous outstanding concerts, events, opera, dance and theatre productions that will punctuate the anniversary year in Beethoven’s native city of Bonn.

The exhibition sheds light on the political and historical situation of the late 18th and early 19th century and takes a closer look at the different social spheres in that period of transition on the threshold of the modern bourgeois era.

Here the focus is Beethoven’s position in the historical context of a society undergoing fundamental change. Music broke out the exclusive salons of an aristocratic elite and was embraced by the wider bourgeois public.

Beethoven’s musical oeuvre is exemplified by key works, among them the Third Symphony, also known as the Eroica, the Piano Sonata No. 29 (Hammerklavier), Op. 106 and the Missa solemnis. These works mark turning points in musical history in general and watershed events in Beethoven’s own life and work.