Every year in the autumn, between the end of August and the beginning of October, Beethoven’s native city of Bonn celebrates the Beethovenfest, welcoming top international orchestras, well-known soloists, major ensembles and promising young performers.
The Beethovenfest has seen renowned Beethoven interpreters and big stars like Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur, Hélène Grimaud, Paavo Järvi, Gustavo Dudamel, Daniel Hope and Martin Grubinger. These and many other musicians return regularly to Bonn in order to present at the Beethovenfest programmes which have been specially compiled for this festival.
Since August 2012 Deutsche Telekom AG and Beethoven Festival Bonn bundle their forces and make use of synergies in the organisation of the International Telekom Beethoven Competition. The Beethoven Festival Bonn contributes its competencies in the field of event management in the international music market. The festival provides of a vast worldwide network of presenters, agents, competitions and artists which shall be utilized in order to strengthen the competition in the international context and improve the placements of the laureates on the music market.
The tradition of Bonn’s Beethovenfest goes back to 1845, when a three-day music festival took place on the Münsterplatz to celebrate the inauguration of the Beethoven monument on the 75th anniversary of his birth.
Since October 1, 1998, the International Beethovenfest Bonn gGmbH has been operating as the responsible institution of the Beethovenfest, which was founded and financially endowed by the City of Bonn. The second shareholder besides the City of Bonn is Deutsche Welle, whose media services ensure the worldwide dissemination of the Festival. The festival cooperates closely with the city's cultural institutions - the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn, the Theater Bonn and the Beethoven-Haus Bonn. The Beethovenfest has sovereign artistic freedom and is economically self-reliant. Franz Willnauer directed the Beethovenfest until the end of 2003; in January 2004 Ilona Schmiel took over the management and artistic directorship. She was followed in January 2014 by Dr. Nike Wagner as artistic director and managing director until 2021.
Steven Walter has been artistic director of the Beethovenfest since October 2021. Under his leadership, the festival is currently repositioning itself: as a festival that reaches out to all sections of the population, radically contemporary in its thinking about a living tradition, and forward-looking in its approach, testing the future of concert life in a variety of ways and playing a significant role in shaping it.