George Lepauw’s Beethoven Festival is back and bursting at the seams. After the success of last year’s debut in Pilsen, the intrepid pianist and founder of the International Beethoven Project heads north with another imaginative, multi-disciplinary extravaganza. Anchored at Uptown’s National Pastime Theater, the BYOB showcase presents top local talent in addition to premiere performances by up-and-coming international sensations, cramming more than 60 inclusive, community-driven events into nine days. Here are our top five picks.
With a background steeped in breakdowns, drugs and divorce, tattooed Brit James Rhodes resembles a seasoned rocker more than a rising classical pianist. The 37-year-old Londoner makes his highly anticipated U.S. debut with works by Beethoven and Schubert. “James has drawn so many new people into the fold of classical,” Lepauw says. “He represents a new generation and is part of the revolution in terms of how art is presented and thought about.”
Twenty-five-year-old Korean pianist HJ Lim has been whipping up a storm in the classical world since becoming the youngest artist to record the complete Beethoven piano sonatas. She makes her first Chicago appearance performing Mozart’s Concerto No. 12 in A major, K. 414, with the Spektral Quartet and sticks around for a few days to perform and conduct various events throughout the festival. “My prediction is that she’ll become the Korean Lang Lang,” Lepauw says. “She’s a technical beast.”
Who says classical musicians don’t know how to party? New Millennium Orchestra violist and DJ Dominic Johnson hits the decks at midnight for a Beethoven bash that’s far from tame. “We’ll explore the social dance continuum from 1066 to 2012,” Johnson says. Just how the ambitious evening integrates interactive performances with lectures and what Lepauw describes as “a full-on rave until 4am” remains to be seen, but expect to greet the dawn with an unlikely mix of Beethoven, U.K. 2-step, techno, deep house and contra dance.
Sat 8–Sept 16
“I wanted the festival’s art exhibit to embody Beethoven’s revolutionary spirit,” says NYC-based curator Catinca Tabacaru, founder of TincaArt. “Making pieces with this energy in mind speaks to the revolutionary character of the times we are living through. Pussy Riot stands up against Putin. The whole Arab world is revolting against its oppressors. Art is not made to decorate walls; it’s made to change the world.” Tabacaru’s inspiring selection features abstract and sculptural works by 16 international artists including Brooklyn street artist Gilf!, Japanese sculptor Shinji Murakami and Miami-based collage artist Evo Love. Silent-auction bidding will take place during festival hours.
The Creatures of Prometheus
It’s only fitting that Revolution 2012’s closing concert is as ambitious as the festival as a whole. The grand finale features the Chicago premiere of Beethoven’s family-friendly 1801 ballet. Conducted by German maestro Matthias Pintscher and featuring choreodrama by dancer/choreographer Ted Seymour, the fully staged production features prima ballerina Abigail Simon of Joffrey Ballet and 13 members of Ballet Chicago. “Culturally, the world is really for something new—a revolution,” Lepauw says passionately. “We’re trying to create an experience that is so fun, surprising and relaxed so that people can truly be emotionally involved in the music.”
Beethoven Festival runs Saturday 8–September 16 at National Pastime Theater and additional venues.