10 of the best BBC programmes celebrating Beethoven’s 250th anniversary

To mark the 250th anniversary of the great composer, the BBC is celebrating Beethoven across radio, television and live performance


BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 is leading the way with its year-long season, Beethoven Unleashed. The year will be split into five distinct parts, each exploring a different area of his life: The Beginning (12-18 January); Love and Loss (15-24 May); Celebrity Beethoven (13-19 July); Beethoven for all (21-25 September); and Beethoven and beyond (14-18 December).


The composer’s life and works will be explored in 26 alternate weeks on Radio 3’s Composer of the Week, tracing the story of his turbulent life and examining his tremendous contribution to music.

Also on Radio 3, a series of five essays titled ‘Why Beethoven Matters’, written by fans of the composer, including composer Nitin Sawhney and poet Innua Ellams. In Sunday Feature‘Dissecting Beethoven looks at how much we can tell about the composer from his autopsy (dates TBC). 

BBC Four

Over on BBC Four, a three-part series on Beethoven will be broadcast in June, following a performance of Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio (31 May) from the Royal Opera House, starring Jonas Kaufmann and Lise Davidsen. The series follows the life of Beethoven through the lens of his music.

In the first episode, ‘Heiligenstadt, 1802’, we meet Beethoven at the age of 31, as he despairs with his ever-increasing deafness, writing the letter now known as the Heiligenstadt Testament.

The second episode, Beethoven’s Home, 1814’ focuses on Beethoven at the height of his fame. Despite being immensely popular, he is losing his ability to hear high notes and hasn’t performed in public for three years.

The final episode of the series, ‘Vienna, May 7th 1824’, brings us to closer to the end of Beethoven’s life as, now completely deaf, he conducts the premiere of his Ninth Symphony.