BBC Radio 3 launches a year of Beethoven in new season of programming

The station has announced new programmes stretching from jazz to Early Music, as well as a yearlong celebration of Beethoven's 250th anniversary


BBC Radio 3 has today announced its plans for the coming season, including a celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Throughout 2020, Beethoven Unleashed will take over Composer of the Week on a fortnightly basis to explore the master’s tormented life and the history of his works.


The 25 weeks of programmes will examine the great composer's legacy and address the question of his status as a ‘hero’ in music history. Live recordings of performances by the BBC Orchestras and Choirs will complete Donald Macleod’s Composer of the Week in this anniversary series.

Radio 3 will also be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Germany’s Weimar Republic, the interwar government which lasted from 1919 to 1933 and saw rapid artistic growth in the country. Weimar Week will feature on Radio 3’s evening schedule, with special editions of The Essay and Free Thinking discussing the period’s innovations.

Sara Mohr-Pietsch moves from her role as presenter of Choir and Organ, which has come to an end, to a new late-night classical music programme Night Tracks.

Early Music Now is a permanent addition to Radio 3’s listings, aiming to present Europe’s best Baroque recordings. The BBC Radio 3 New Generation Baroque Ensemble, partnering with the Royal College of Music, will make its debut to promote the work of young performers of Early Music. 

Elizabeth Alker’s Unclassified, which had made appearances on the station as a temporary series, will become a permanent fixture, focusing on contemporary and experimental music.  Joining Radio 3’s current contemporary programme the New Music Show, Unclassified will present composers whose works are influenced by pop, electronica and jazz as well as classical music. 

Following the 2018 premiere of the specially commissioned ambient NHS Symphony, acclaimed young composer Alex Woolf returns to Radio 3 with M1 Symphony, a soundscape inspired by Britain’s first motorway juxtaposing recorded speech and sound effects with an orchestral score performed by the BBC Philharmonic.

Finally, a new late-night jazz programme will be launched in early November. The programme will focus on modern jazz, bringing up-to-date news and music by both British and international jazz-players. It replaces Geoffrey Smith's Jazz, which will finish at the end of September.

Other new programmes include another series of Slow Radio, with a sonic journey down the Thames and landscape recordings made in Greenland. Plus, Gareth Malone will host a programme about people who refuse to listen to music. Finally, a partnership with New York’s prestigious Museum of Modern Art will explore the relationship between personal experience and the spectator’s perception of modern art through the theme of sight.

Programming changes:

Early Music Now will air on Mondays 4.30-5pm, from 16 September.

Unclassified will air on Thursdays 11.30-12.30pm, from 3 October.

The new jazz programme will air at midnight on Saturdays, from 2 November.

Night Tracks will air Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 11pm-12.30am, and on Thursdays 11-11.30pm, beginning on 30 September.

Geoffrey Smith's Jazz will be replaced by a new programme focusing on modern jazz.


Choir and Organ will be replaced by Jazz Record Requests on Sundays from 4-5pm.