Ludwig van Beethoven was forever pushing boundaries, and the annual Chicago festival that bears the composer's name continues to do the same, even more so than in the past.
"Beethoven Festival: LOVE 2013," as the third edition is titled, will be bigger and more ambitious than ever, comprising more than 100 multidisciplinary events representing classical and popular music, jazz, dance, theater, visual art, fashion, literature and education, presented over a concentrated period of nine days and nights this fall in downtown Chicago.
Program and artist details for the Sept. 7-15 festival were announced Monday by George Lepauw, president and artistic director of the International Beethoven Project, the Chicago-based nonprofit organization that is presenting the festival.
The two previous Beethoven festivals were in out-of-the-way venues in Chicago's Pilsen and Uptown neighborhoods that weren't conducive to attracting more than modest audiences. This year Lepauw and his administrative team — a volunteer force of 75 — are presenting the bulk of festival events at a more centrally located headquarters, the Merit School of Music's Joy Faith Knapp Music Center, in the West Loop at 38 S. Peoria St.
"The Merit School has such great programs to give relatively poor kids throughout the city access to quality music education," Lepauw says. "It's a remarkable mission, and we felt strongly about associating ourselves with that. Also, we like the idea of exploring the West Loop, because there's so much going on there in music, art and design."
German composer-conductor Matthias Pintscher will return for three concerts including his own music, J.S. Bach's "St. John Passion" and Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony. Two different series of newly commissioned bagatelles by classical and rock artists will be curated by Chicago composer Mischa Zupko and Glenn Kotche, drummer of the rock band Wilco, respectively. The classical pieces are to be based on Beethoven's iconic Fifth Symphony.
Other performers will include pianists Christopher O'Riley and Lepauw; cellists Matt Haimovitz and Gabriel Cabezas; violinists Rachel Kolly d'Alba, Daniel Rowland and Ambi Subramaniam; soprano Arianna Zukerman; lutenist Hopkinson Smith; and jazz pianist and composer Dan Tepfer.
Once again works by living Chicago composers will be a central component, performed by the newly formed Prometheus Modern ensemble and other musicians. The International Beethoven Project will take part in several events, including a Beethoven-themed "summer camp" collaboration with the Southport Performing Arts Conservatory that will weave together music, dance, drama and design.
For the third year, various Chicago-based visual artists will be commissioned to create works specifically for the festival. Israeli artist Rachel Monosov, this year's artist-in-residence, will contribute a site-specific, multimedia performance piece. New short works of prose and poetry will be built around the theme of love and the "Immortal Beloved," the mystery woman to whom Beethoven addressed a love letter in 1812. Also planned is a showcase of works by local, emerging fashion designers.
The Chicago-based Richard H. Driehaus Foundation is making a $100,000 challenge grant to help the festival meet its fundraising goal of $600,000. The foundation will match each donation made to the International Beethoven Project through the end of the year.
Lepauw calls the 2013 Beethoven fest "a work of total art" that performers and audience members alike "can walk into and actively participate in. It's about creating connections among artists, encouraging them to take risks, climb out of their boxes and push their creativity to the limits. Beethoven inspires us to constantly reinvent ourselves artistically."
Chicagoans sometimes are slow to appreciate the cultural attributes people nationally and internationally recognize about the city. The Beethoven Festival is a means of bringing that appreciation quite literally back home, he says.
"All of us really hope Chicago comes around to the necessity of this festival and supports it wholeheartedly."