Streaming Beethoven: North Bay Chamber Musicians Take to the Internet

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1856) was one of the most famous and revered composers of his time, and he’s remained one of the most popular figures in classical music for more than two centuries, so it’s safe to assume he knew his works would be performed long after his death.

Yet, there’s no way he could have predicted that those concerts would come via radio and television broadcasts as well as Internet streaming. Though that’s exactly what is happening this summer, as the Valley of the Moon Music Festival becomes the latest North Bay event to move online for 2020 in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Based in the heart of Sonoma Valley, the historically accurate chamber music organization originally planned an ambitious 2020 program centered around Beethoven’s influence on chamber music. That program has been delayed to summer of 2021, and in its place, the festival will present an equally ambitious virtual schedule of concerts that will focus on Beethoven’s many smaller works.

First, Valley of the Moon Music Festival co-founder and musician Eric Zivian performs a series of weekly solo concerts that will be broadcast on local radio and television before they are available to stream on the festival’s website.

That series begins this Saturday, June 13, and runs through the calendar year. Given that 2020 is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, Zivian will perform the complete cycle of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas for piano.

“Were it not for the shelter-in-place order, this is a project I would never have had time to take on,” says Zivian. “As a feat of endurance, it’s a challenge not unlike hiking the full length of the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to explore the full range of Beethoven’s style, and the emotion, humor and spirituality of these treasures.”

Zivian specializes in playing the fortepiano, an early version of the piano that dates between the late 18th to early-19th century and which was heavily used by composers like Haydn, Mozart, and the younger Beethoven, who wrote his piano sonatas on the instrument.

Over the course of the 2020 sonata cycle, Zivian will use two different Viennese fortepianos corresponding with the instrument’s changing sound during Beethoven’s lifetime. Zivian will use a smaller Paul Poletti-made copy of a 1795 fortepiano for the earlier sonatas and an original 1841 Rausch-made fortepiano for the later sonatas.

Every Saturday, the concerts will broadcast on KSVY 91.3 FM radio at 11am and Sonoma Valley Television, SVTV 27, at 6pm, and the performances will also be available for streaming free of charge on the Valley of the Moon Music Festival website for a week after each broadcast.

Bay Area musicians and scholars from the festival’s Blattner Lecture Series will introduce each sonata and provide commentary, with speakers including Nicholas Mathew, author of Political Beethoven and associate professor in the Department of Music at UC Berkeley; Nicholas McGegan, former artistic director at Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra; and Kate van Orden, Harvard University’s Dwight P. Robinson, Jr. Professor of Music. Members of the festival’s “Virtual Beethoven Society” can also get early access to each new installment with weekly live-streams of Zivian’s performances on Wednesdays.

In addition to the year-long weekly cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, Valley of the Moon Music Festival hosts a Virtual Beethoven Festival, running online July 18 – August 2, with concerts exploring the composer’s various chamber works and featuring performers including Zivian alongside fellow festival co-founding director and cellist Tanya Tomkins, violinist Francisco Fullana, viola player Liana Bérubé, fellow fortepiano player Audrey Vardanega and soprano vocalist Maya Kherani.

The Virtual Beethoven Festival will live-stream a new concert each Saturday and Sunday from July 18 – August 2 at 4pm. All programs are entirely free to the public. A suggested donation of $10 will go directly to supporting the festival’s artists and staff.

The complete Valley of the Moon Music Festival virtual program and more information can be found at

Sonoma County Library