Beethoven's 250th Anniversary To Be Celebrated By Jonathan Biss, Stephen Hough, Miró Quartet, And More

Beethoven's 250th Anniversary To Be Celebrated By Jonathan Biss, Stephen Hough, Miró Quartet, And More

To mark the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth, artists across the world are celebrating his music with wide-ranging performances and projects-from Jonathan Biss's immersion in the composer's piano sonatas, to Stephen Hough's recording of the five piano concertos, to the Miró Quartet's surveys of the complete string quartets in concert and on recording. Even beyond cycles and series, the number of individual Beethoven performances expands next season in celebration of the anniversary. Highlighted below are select Beethoven projects, as well as a complete schedule of Beethoven performances, recordings, and additional highlights by Shuman Associates artists during the 2019-20 season.

For more than a decade, pianist Jonathan Biss has fully immersed himself in the music of Beethoven, exploring the composer's works and musical thought through a wide variety of projects, several of which culminate this season. In 2012, he launched a nine-volume recording cycle of the composer's 32 piano sonatas, which concludes this season with the release of the final volume (November 2019) and full box set (January 2020) on Orchid Classics. Complementing this cycle is his online Coursera lecture series Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, created in affiliation with the Curtis Institute of Music, where he is on faculty, and launched in 2013 with the goal of covering each sonata in depth. The course achieved instant, widespread popularity, and the final lectures appear this fall and winter. Additionally, Mr. Biss's recital repertoire this season is almost exclusively focused on the Beethoven piano sonatas, with complete, seven-program sonata cycles planned for Berkeley's Hertz Hall (Sept. 21 - Mar. 8), London's Wigmore Hall (Sept. 29 - June 25), and the new McKnight Center for the Performing Arts at Oklahoma State University (Oct. 25 - Mar. 28). He performs additional sonata recitals and mini-cycles around the U.S., including in:

  • Philadelphia (Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater) - Four of the eight programs in the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society's Beethoven solo piano series. Mr. Biss performs over half of the 32 sonatas, with the rest performed by Rudolf Buchbinder, Ingrid Fliter, and Richard Goode (Mitsuko Uchida performs Beethoven bagatelles and variations). Feb. 18, Mar. 19, 24, 30
  • New York (92nd Street Y) - An exploration of Beethoven's late style-one of the subjects of his 2017 eBook Coda-via a recital program of the composer's last three piano sonatas. Mar. 26.

...among other dates to be announced.

Mr. Biss has taken a different approach to surveying Beethoven's five piano concertos, embarking on a commissioning project, Beethoven/5, which pairs each Beethoven concerto with a new concerto composed in response. Launched in 2015 in partnership with lead commissioner the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, this project has led to world premieres by Timo Andres, Sally Beamish, Salvatore Sciarrino, Caroline Shaw, and-this season-Brett Dean, whose Gneixendorfer Musik premieres in Stockholm alongside the work that inspired it, Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto, with The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (Feb. 13, 15). Additionally, Mr. Biss performs the "Emperor" on an East Coast U.S. tour with Osmo Vänskä and the Curtis Symphony Orchestra, including concerts at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center (Jan. 31) and Carnegie Hall (Feb. 8).

In recent seasons, pianist Stephen Hough has been especially focused on exploring Beethoven's five piano concertos, including in performances with the New York Philharmonic, San Diego Symphony, and St. Louis Symphony. He has performed complete Beethoven concerto cycles with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Singapore Symphony, Tasmanian Symphony, and-now on this two-volume recording released by Hyperion Records in May 2020-the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra with Chief Conductor Hannu Lintu. In concert this season, he performs three of these concertos in the U.S.:

  • Washington, DC (The Kennedy Center): Piano Concerto No. 3 with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Louis Langrée. Apr. 16, 18
  • Asheville, NC (Wolfe Auditorium): Piano Concertos No. 4 and 5 with the Asheville Symphony, conducted by Music Director Darko Butorac. May 9

Mr. Hough also explores Beethoven's concertos in writing in his upcoming book, Rough Ideas: Reflections on Music and More. To be published on February 4 in the U.S. by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, this collection of essays includes a selection titled "How Beethoven Redesigned the Cadenza," as well as an essay about a Holocaust-surviving pianist who found special solace in the music of Beethoven.

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary season, the Miró Quartet also celebrates Beethoven's 250th anniversary with the composer's complete string quartets in concert and on recording. In July 2019, the Quartet embarks on a year-long string quartet cycle at Chamber Music Northwest, where the ensemble is in residence during the 2019-20 season. The Quartet has previously performed full Beethoven cycles at Tokyo's Suntory Hall, Chamber Music Tulsa, and the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival in Washington state. Performances of the Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130 with Grosse Fuge, Op. 133 are also programmed in Indianapolis (Oct. 23) as part of the Miró Quartet Archive Project, which honors the American string quartet tradition by recreating three historic recitals by iconic, early 20th-century ensembles, in this case a 1935 program by the Kolisch Quartet.

Beyond the concert hall, the Miró Quartet concludes its recording cycle of Beethoven's string quartets with the release of a complete box set on Pentatone in November 2019. The ensemble began this project in 2005 with the release of the Op. 18 quartets, so the finished cycle represents not only the Beethoven's journey as a composer, but also a 14-year journey for the Miró Quartet, with each volume serving as a musical snapshot along the way. Including the 2005 recording, five volumes have been released individually, the latest in 2018. Recordings of the remaining quartets are released as part of the complete set alongside these earlier volumes.

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