Beethoven Walks at the Nasher

Monday, February 6, 2023

Seth Knopp's Beethoven Walks at the Nasher, commissioned by the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX, opened on February 5, 2023 and will remain open until May 21, 2023.

Ludwig van Beethoven left behind a vast visual record of his compositional process, a staggering reflection of the humanity that defines his music. Beethoven Walks at the Nasher Center incorporates sketches and the autograph manuscript with a recorded performance of one of the composer’s most profound and personal musical utterances, his “Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lydischen Tonart (Holy Song of Thanksgiving to the Deity from a convalescent, in the Lydian mode), the third movement of his String Quartet, Opus 132 completed in 1825.

View the visitor guide and listen to the recording

Takács Quartet
Edward Dusinberre and Károly Schranz, violins; Roger Tapping, viola; András Fejér, cello
Used with permission from Decca

Beethoven Walks at the Nasher is dedicated to the memory of Roger Tapping, one of the great chamber musicians of our time and a beloved Yellow Barn faculty member for nearly 20 summers. The opening event took place on February 5th, Roger's birthday.

About Beethoven Walks

Beethoven Walks is a project begun in the early spring of 2020 during our collective isolation, serving a universal need to better understand our humanity through music and the beauty of our world. The first installations, produced by Yellow Barn in Putney, Vermont, spanned four miles of woodland trails and included nine works by Beethoven accompanied by over 180 pages of sketches and autograph manuscripts. Beethoven Walks at the Greenwood School in Putney remains open to the public. 

Find out more about Beethoven Walks

Beethoven Walks was imagined and created by Seth Knopp and produced by Catherine Stephan.

Acknowledgments for Beethoven Walks at the Nasher


Howard Printing
John Kramer Design

Op.132 Autograph sketches and manuscript

Staatsbibliotek zu Berlin

Op.132 Recording

Decca Music Group, Ltd. (2004)


Nasher Sculpture Center

"Trust is key."

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

On July 15, 2023, Jeremy Eichler visited Yellow Barn's summer festival, and subsequently wrote about his Barn experience for the Boston Globe:

SoYoung Choi, Sam Suggs, and Nicholas Mann perform selections from György Kurtág's "Signs, Games, and Messages" in the Big Barn

Kurtág, Brahms, and Symanowksi, with blueberries on top
On Friday night, the Yellow Barn music festival once more served up a bracing mix of old and new

By Jeremy Eichler, Globe Staff

PUTNEY, VT — A casual passerby could be forgiven for their raised eyebrows. On Friday evening, outside the general store in this small Vermont town with a population of just over 2,600, a group of students could be heard debating the merits of a particular Debussy arrangement with feisty undergraduate zeal.

Chamber music insiders, however, would be less surprised by the scene. Every summer for 53 years, dozens of advanced students and early-career musicians descend on Putney, where they join a loyal group of faculty members at a progressive-minded music festival known as Yellow Barn. Now in its 25th year under the imaginative leadership of artistic director Seth Knopp, the place runs less like a traditional festival and more like a laboratory for rethinking what a chamber concert might try to do and to be.

Trust is key. Knopp and executive director Catherine Stephan seem to have weaned audiences from the widespread habit of turning out based on the names they recognize from the program. At Yellow Barn, an audience member may know none of the players on a given night, and may have never heard of 80 percent of the repertoire. No matter. They know the program will likely cohere artistically, that the performances will be deeply committed, and that they will probably leave having discovered something bracing and new.

The current season at Yellow Barn, which runs through Aug. 6, honors the memory of Roger Tapping, a distinguished violist who played in both the Takacs and Juilliard Quartets, and a much-loved Yellow Barn faculty member who taught participants across multiple decades. Friday night’s program was one of several this summer featuring music with which Tapping was particularly connected — in this case, works by Brahms, Szymanowski, and the Hungarian master György Kurtág.

Kurtág may be the least well-known of these three composers, but on Friday’s program, the laser-like intensity and haunting eloquence of his music overshadowed just about everything else. It’s for good reason that, at 96, he may be the most revered composer alive today. His music posits modernism itself as a kind of broken mirror in which the vibrations of a century riven by unimaginable violence commingle with the fractured yet still-glowing fragments of the self.

Friday’s program opened with selections from Kurtág’s series “Signs, Games, and Messages,” performed by a trio of strings (SoYoung Choi, violin; Nicholas Mann, viola; and Sam Suggs, bass). The first short work, “Virág az ember, Mijakónak,” offers up elemental musical gestures rendered with heavy practice mutes clamped onto the bridges of all three instruments, dampening their resonance and cutting their volume beneath that of a whisper. In lesser hands, the effect might seem like a gimmick, but not here. Kurtág’s music often dramatizes the existential struggle for expression itself, and “Virág az ember, Mijakónak” speaks in this vein, as if each note were painstakingly wrested from an abyss of silence.

When coaching players in his own music, Kurtág famously brooks no compromise, demanding highly exacting performances. Fortunately, that is precisely what Friday’s trio offered, rendering the opening selection and 10 others from this series with precise technique, interpretive vision, and impeccable musicianship. The audience listened with rapt attention.

Perhaps inevitably, most of the remainder of Friday’s concert receded from these Kurtágian heights, with festival participants strolling more casually in the meadows below. Mezzo-soprano Rebecca Printz and pianist Chaeyoung Park sauntered through an involving set of Szymanowski songs. And an assemblage of faculty and younger festival players gamely took on Brahms’s immortal B-flat Major String Sextet.

The Sextet’s glorious theme-and-variations Andante may be its best-loved movement, and when listening to a live performance, one rendition never feels like quite enough. Happily, on this occasion, we heard it not once but twice thanks to Qing Jiang’s spirited and tonally robust account of Brahms’s solo piano arrangement of that very same movement.

With COVID-19 still in the air, the festival hall (known as “The Big Barn”) is technically limited to 60 percent of its usual capacity, but on Friday, with participants lavishly cheering their colleagues from the balcony, the space felt as full as ever. And yes, in case you were wondering, at intermission the festival still serves its trademark snack of local blueberries on vanilla ice cream. To be sure, Yellow Barn is back — and there is no place quite like it.

The Strad features Music Haul

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

"At the same time, traditional classical music can be just as popular in any socio-cultural context, and bringing it into new spaces is key. The Yellow Barn festival in Vermont has found similar success by driving its Music Haul truck into different neighbourhoods and converting it into a pop-up stage in front of new communities and audiences. Most important of that musicians of all colours and backgrounds engage with these audiences repeatedly."

Read about Yellow Barn Music Haul in The Strad's "Black America: A race for change"

Find out more about Yellow Barn's collaboration with The Epiphany School

Where is Music Haul now? Follow Flip Side Baltimore

Yellow Barn’s 2021 Summer Artwork

Friday, April 23, 2021

Imaginary Lectures by Ann Glazer (2019 Artist in Residence), a series of six chalk drawings with words collected from rehearsals and performances at Yellow Barn View larger
"The magic of Yellow Barn concerts tells only part of Yellow Barn’s story. The weeks of interactions between musicians, composers, faculty and students are heard but not disclosed in the performances.  Though revealing a magician's mechanics can destroy the illusion, bearing witness to the exchange of ideas and inspirations at Yellow Barn only makes the music more meaningful."—Ann Glazer
For the duration of our 2019 Summer Festival, artist Ann Glazer was in residence, attending Yellow Barn rehearsals and performances, meals and parties. After cleaning out a nearby barn, Ann upended our old percussion platforms, transforming them into chalkboards for her work. At the end of her residency, "Imaginary Lectures" emerged. Included in the drawings are words and phrases spoken by Yellow Barn musicians over the course of five weeks of rehearsals and performances.
About the Artist

Ann Glazer creates works that cross mediums. Her experimentation with process evokes personal narratives of everyday life.

Glazer received a BA from Brown University and an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. She was awarded fellowships from the Dallas Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (MOCA), The Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA; the Reading Room, Dallas; Women & Their Work, Austin; Dallas Center for Contemporary Art, The McKinney Avenue Contemporary; and Barry Whistler, Conduit, AIR (NYC), DW, Kirk Hopper Fine Art and Liliana Bloch Galleries.

Ann Glazer lives and works in Dallas and New York City.

View more of Ann Glazer's work


Watch excerpts "from the patio"

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Enjoy these excerpts from Yellow Barn Patio Noise.

More Yellow Barn videos


Seth Knopp and Osvaldo Golijov:
"so far, but yet so close"
Osvaldo Golijov's Tenebrae and James MacMillan's Angel
Watch the related performance

Osvaldo Golijov:
Creating a family of ancestors for each piece

Seth Knopp and Tony Arnold:
Homesickness and interpreting a composer's sense of place
Shostakovich's Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok
Watch the related performance

Seth Knopp and Lucy Shelton:
Music making an argument for its own transcendentalism
John Cage's Solo for Voice 43
Watch the related performance

Lucy Shelton:
Deciphering and performance John Cage's Solo for Voice 22
Watch the related performance

Lizzie Burns and Lucy Fitz Gibbon:
Interpreting intimacy in a time of distance; Action and memory in Joyce and Goethe; Shedding light on gender relations
Amy Beth Kirsten's yes I said yes I will Yes.
Watch the related performance

Seth Knopp and dancer/choreographer Daniel McCusker:
How do we talk to an audience in a way that redefines meaning?

Daniel McCusker:
Interpreting Merce Cunningham dances from the time of John Cage

Travis Laplante, with Seth Knopp and Bonnie Hampton:
Composing and interpreting The Obvious Place, improvisation and the meaning of performance
Watch the related performance

Natasha Brofsky, John Myerscough, Laurence Lesser, and Aaron Wolff:
The experience of masks on, and masks off, for performers and listeners
The complete suites for solo cello by J.S. Bach
Watch the related performance

Bonnie Hampton, Gabriel Martins, and Aaron Wolff:
The character of the Bach Cello Suites during this time
Watch the related performance

John Myerscough, Lisa Kang, Michael Katz, Michael Kannen, and Laurence Lesser:
The Bach Cello Suites: Which movement and why?
Watch the related performance

Seth Knopp:
Music is meant for everybody: The music - interpreter - listener continuum

Bonnie Hampton:
Kirchner's Piano Trio and the journey of exploring and performing a new piece of music

Eduardo Leandro:
Performing Lei Liang's Trans, integrating sounds from nature, and with an audience after months of isololation
Watch the related performance

Seth Knopp and Gilbert Kalish:
Hearing Beethoven in Ives's "Concord" Sonata
Watch the related performance

Stephen Coxe and Catherine Stephan:
Using Beethoven's autograph sketches and manuscripts for "Entstehung Heiliger Dankgesang" and an art installation

Alice Ivy-Pemberton, Emma Frucht, Roger Tapping, and Coleman Itzkoff:
Performing Beethoven's "Heiliger Dankgesang" with Stephen Coxe's "Entstehung Heiliger Dankgesang"
Watch the related performance

Testimonials for Beethoven Walks

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

In June 2020, Yellow Barn opened the first two Beethoven Walks trails in Putney, Vermont. Below is a collection of comments that we have received from visitors. Learn more about how to take a Beethoven Walks trail, and afterwards send us your thoughts and photos.

Be sure to take the Hannum Trail before it closes on September 8th!

I just got back from my walk—what an extraordinary experience! It was so magical to be surrounded by the sketches—especially at the listening places, I loved how all of them were angled towards the sitting benches so they seemed to be gazing at you while you looked back. I took your advice and listened without headphones, which made for a great conversation between the recordings and the varying speeds of wind. Each track and spot was really its own gem—I loved that the Mass was elevated and looking down, while the orchestral introduction of the Emperor movement seemed to be part of the ascending landscape, and of course, the uprooted tree at the Heiliger spot was jaw-dropping. By the end the sketches felt like friends—I was sad to exit the forest! I imagine it will be so touching for musicians and non-musicians alike. Also, while in the forest I think I forgot about the pandemic for the first time since it started...which is really saying something.

I did the Hannum trail Beethoven Walk today.  What an awesome experience!  I don't know where to begin—I'll never hear that music the same way again, and I've never experienced the forest and its noises, silence, and movement in that way before.

I went on the Hannum Beethoven Walk a few weeks ago and OH it is such a beautiful, beautiful thing you’ve made, thank you thank you thank you! For those of us who can only handle so much screen-time, it left our hearts soaring with the same feeling that a live performance brings—the adventure of not knowing what’s around the corner, of giving over to an experience. The way the forest sounds mingled with Beethoven added a kaleidoscope of new shades of feeling and meaning—and left me thinking, how have I never brought Beethoven into the sun—dappled, thrush-laden summer woods before?!? It didn’t feel like a stand-in artistic experience, it felt like THIS is how to listen to Beethoven! Period! And to have his manuscripts painting the path like was magic—pure, loving magic!

The walk is a masterpiece. The cathedral of the pines is a holy place. The wandering, swirling rivulet below the bench is a place of peace. We can list many more such places along the way, each a masterpiece of nature and nurture. We hope, aside from all the complexity one finds upon leaving the woods, and aside from the fleeing nature of this installation and of life, that you feel great pride in what is. 

I'm writing to you having just done the beautiful Hannum hiking trail. I was drawn to it by the Yellow Barn app, and I must tell you I absolutely loved it. I've been coming to Putney for many years in the summers but I'd never known about this trail, so I'm very happy to have found it, and I intend to return often! As a music lover, long acquainted with the stories of Beethoven dreaming up his sublime ideas while walking through his woods, I was genuinely moved and delighted to experience this amazingly imaginative and artistic illustration of his process - it's truly inspiring and it was clearly done with such loving care.

I had never hiked that part of the Hannum-O'Connor trail before and had no idea how well-designed and beautiful it is—not in the sense of dramatic views, but rather a window into a quiet Vermont woodland, complete with ferned glades, majestic hemlock groves, trickling streams, and rocky outcrops. And then the Music—some of Beethoven's most moving and sublime compositions beamed right to my cellphone as we strolled the winding path. Ecstasy! The many excerpts from his own drafts and scores decorating the trees along the trail, while not very legible to the novice, give a visual suggestion of the master's energetic genius. It's a wonderful undertaking. Don't miss it!!
We stumbled upon the Beethoven Walk section of the Trail and felt like we fell down the rabbit hole!
Amazing, inspiring…