It started slowly, as awareness began to rise, and then all over the city – and beyond – people were celebrating Beethoven Awareness Month.
The WQXR campaign first got a jolt with a write-up in The New York Times, followed by a television ad and live radio kick-off from Grand Central Station featuring the breakdancer Dister bustin’ moves to music from the Escher String Quartet.
And, of course, there were the posters. Designed by the ad firm Eyeball in the style of graphic artist Shepard Fairey – best known for his Obey Giant street art and Barack Obama "Hope" poster – and reproduced with his permission, the striking Obey-Thoven image graced New York City subways and street corners.
"Of course I support classical music, and this homage to my work made me smile,” Fairey said in a statement.
Obey-Thoven then made its way onto the Twittersphere as the hashtag #Obeythoven quickly caught on. In just a little more than a week, New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix deemed Obey-Thoven to be at the intersection of highbrow and brilliant.
Always intended to a playful as well as serious ode to the great Ludwig van, online viewers were encouraged to submit their own entries to the Beethoven Time Machine, get a workout playlist and take a daily guess at Where’s Beethoven through a month-long photo contest.
On-air and online programing included the all-Beethoven stream, a live broadcast of Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique from Carnegie Hall performing Beethoven’s orchestral works, and a 12-hour marathon of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in the The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space. A sold-out crowd watched in person as thousands tuned in online to see and hear some of classical music’s brightest young pianists, including Joyce Yang, Jeremy Denk, Timothy Andres, Natasha Paremski and Jonathan Biss, work through all 32 piano sonatas.
Earlier that same day, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg issued an official proclamation that Nov. 20 was "Beethoven Day" in New York.