Jonathan Biss Performs Beethoven's Last Three Piano Sonatas At 92nd Street Y
On the anniversary of Beethoven's death, March 26, pianist Jonathan Biss gives a solo recital of the composer's last three piano sonatas-Op. 109 in E major, Op. 110 in A-flat major, and Op. 111 in C minor-at 92nd Street Y's Kaufmann Concert Hall. The performance, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. that evening, continues Mr. Biss's decade-long immersion in the music of Beethoven-including recording and lecture cycles of all 32 piano sonatas-leading up to the worldwide celebrations of the composer's 250th birthday this year. Tickets from $35 are available at 92Y.org or by calling (212) 415-5500.
Mr. Biss's recital repertoire this season is almost exclusively focused on the Beethoven piano sonatas, with complete, seven-program sonata cycles underway at Berkeley's Hertz Hall, London's Wigmore Hall, and the new McKnight Center for the Performing Arts at Oklahoma State University. He also performs sonata recitals and mini-cycles this season at the Perelman Theater in Philadelphia, Meany Hall in Seattle, and The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, as well as abroad in Budapest, Melbourne, Rome, and Sydney.
The three works on the 92nd Street Y program are exemplars of Beethoven's late style, and in addition to appearing on Mr. Biss's recital programs this season, they are featured on Volumes 7, 8, and 9, respectively, of his nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of the complete sonatas, which is released as a box set by Orchid Classics on March 6. He writes about the challenges of recording these works in his 2011 e-book, Beethoven's Shadow, the first Kindle Single by a classical musician.
From 2013 to 2020, Mr. Biss also surveyed these 32 landmark works in the piano repertoire through his online course Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, available via Coursera in partnership with the Curtis Institute of Music. The course has attracted more than 150,000 students from nearly every country in the world, and in one of his lectures, he says of the works on this program:
"This final trinity of sonatas ... represent[s] a summation, the perfection of all the forms he has been grappling with his whole life, a fulfillment after the crisis years, a perfect balance that one sees him seeking in [earlier] experimental works ... At the same time, these last sonatas step way into the unknown. The music world is still trying to come to grips with what Beethoven achieves here."
Beyond the sonatas, Mr. Biss has also explored Beethoven's five piano concertos. Most notably, in 2015 he partnered with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra to launch a commissioning project, Beethoven/5, that pairs each Beethoven concerto with a new concerto composed in response. This project has led to world premieres by Timo Andres, Sally Beamish, Salvatore Sciarrino, Caroline Shaw, and-this season-Brett Dean, whose new commission, Gneixendorfer Musik - A Winter's Journey, was composed in response to the "Emperor" Concerto. In addition to premiering the new work this season with The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm, Mr. Biss recently toured the "Emperor" Concerto in the U.S. with Osmo Vänskä and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, performing at Carnegie Hall and Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, among other venues.
Jonathan Biss is a world-renowned pianist who channels his deep musical curiosity into performances and projects in the concert hall and beyond. In addition to performing with today's leading orchestras, he continues to expand his reputation as a teacher, musical thinker, and one of the great Beethoven interpreters of our time. He recently joined Mitsuko Uchida as Co-Artistic Director of the Marlboro Music Festival, where he has spent thirteen summers. He has written extensively about the music he plays, and has authored three e-books.
Mr. Biss's projects, including his decade-long Beethoven immersion, represent his complete approach to music-making and connecting his audience to his own passion for the music. Previous projects have included an exploration of composers' "Late Style" in various concert programs at Carnegie Hall, the Barbican Centre, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and San Francisco Performances. He also published the Kindle Single Coda on the topic. Schumann: Under the Influence was a 30-concert exploration of the composer's role in musical history, for which Mr. Biss also recorded Schumann and Dvořák piano quintets with the Elias String Quartet and wrote A Pianist Under the Influence.
Mr. Biss represents the third generation in a family of professional musicians that includes his grandmother Raya Garbousova, one of the first well-known female cellists (for whom Samuel Barber composed his Cello Concerto), and his parents, violinist Miriam Fried and violist/violinist Paul Biss. Growing up surrounded by music, Mr. Biss began his piano studies at age six, and his first musical collaborations were with his mother and father. He studied with Evelyne Brancart at Indiana University and with Leon Fleisher at the Curtis Institute of Music. He has since appeared with major orchestras around the world, including in the U.S. with the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics; the Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco Symphonies; and the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras. He has also been recognized with numerous honors, including Lincoln Center's Martin E. Segal Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the 2003 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award, and the 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award.
For more information, visit jonathanbiss.com.
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