Nashville Symphony Celebrates Beethoven’s 250th Birthday

February 20-23 concerts kick off a year of musical festivities at the Schermerhorn and Ascend Amphitheater

Nashville, Tenn. (February 14, 2020) — The Nashville Symphony opens a yearlong celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birth year with Beethoven’s Birthday Bash on February 20-23 at Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Featuring three of the composer’s most influential piece, the performances will be headlined by Symphony No. 3, “Eroica,” a paradigm-shifting work of ambition, energy and heroic proportions written during a time when both the composer and world history were undergoing dramatic changes.

Also on the program are the Lenore Overture No. 3 from the opera Fidelio, a work whose message about confronting tyranny continues to speak to contemporary audiences, and Beethoven’s groundbreaking First Piano Concerto, featuring world-renowned Irish pianist Barry Douglas. 

“More any other composer, Beethoven transformed the sound of music,” notes Nashville Symphony music director Giancarlo Guerrero. “He upended how both musicians and audiences understood structure, harmony, form, melodic development and orchestration. Music as we know it would sound vastly different today without his influence.”

To kick off the festivities, Beethoven’s Birthday Bash will include complimentary cake from Café Intermezzo for all attendees in the Schermerhorn’s Main Lobby (while supplies last) before each performance.

Following the February 20-23 concerts, the Nashville Symphony will survey a number of iconic Beethoven works throughout 2020, which marks the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth:

  • March 19-21: Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral”
  • September 5: Symphony Under the Stars at Ascend Amphitheater, featuring Symphony No. 5 & No. 9
  • October 2-4: Classical Rock Stars, featuring Symphony No. 1
  • October 22-24: Epic Beethoven & Strauss, featuring Grosse Fuge
  • November 20 & 21: Beethoven’s Choral Masterpiece, featuring Missa Solemnis

For tickets and more information on the Nashville Symphony’s yearlong celebration of Beethoven, please visit

About the Program

The three pieces featured in Beethoven’s Birthday Bash emerged during 1790 and 1810, a period when Beethoven had left his native Bonn for Vienna. This highly productive portion of his career coincided with a broader era of dynamic artistic transformation: 

  • Beethoven referred to Fidelio – the only opera he ever wrote – as his “child of sorrow” due to the immense struggles he endured composing the piece. The plot centers around noblewoman Leonore’s efforts to rescue her husband, Florestan, from a political prison outside Seville by disguising herself as a man named Fidelio.
  • Originally titled Leonore, the opera underwent several revisions after its 1805 premiere. Beethoven settled on a final version in 1814, incorporating a more compact and brisk overture and changing the name to Fidelio. The work shares a heroic quality with the Eroica Symphony, and some music historians have theorized that the prisoner Florestan can be viewed as an alter ego for the composer, who was imprisoned himself by his deafness. 
  • Piano concertos were not just an opportunity for Beethoven to hone his skills as a composer blending elements of the Classical style pioneered by predecessors like Mozart and Haydn with his own groundbreaking approach. The genre also served as a vehicle for him to showcase his unparalleled virtuosity as an instrumentalist, and he was the soloist for four of the five piano concertos he penned during his career.
  • The Eroica Symphony is considered a major advance in the history of Western music, in part due to its enormous scale and because it was the first of Beethoven’s symphonies that completely challenged ideas of what a symphony could be — so much so that the piece was considered avant-garde when it premiered. The music also represents Beethoven’s deeply thoughtful response to the onset of permanent deafness, a development that caused him to contemplate suicide prior to embarking on the piece.
  • The French Revolution and its principles of freedom and equality were a source of inspiration for the Eroica, and Beethoven initially planned to dedicate the work to Napoleon Bonaparte out of admiration for the leader. But when Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France in 1804, the composer was disgusted, erasing Napoleon’s name from the manuscript so forcefully that it left holes in the title page.

To learn even more about Beethoven and the history behind the music on this program, arrive early for the Symphony’s Classical Conversations with Maestro Guerrero, taking place one hour before each concert in the Balcony Lobby.

Tickets for Beethoven’s Birthday Bash may be purchased:

  • Online at
  • Via phone at 615.687.6400
  • At the Schermerhorn Symphony Center Box Office, One Symphony Place in downtown Nashville 

Full program notes, artist bios, a Spotify playlist and more can be found at: