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Jonathan Biss To Perform U.S. Premiere Of Brett Dean's Piano Concerto With The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, February 10-12

Dean's concerto is part of Biss' Beethoven/5 commissioning initiative, which pairs each Beethoven concerto with a new composition.

Jonathan Biss To Perform U.S. Premiere Of Brett Dean's Piano Concerto With The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, February 10-12

Jonathan Biss returns to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for three performances on February 10-12, playing the U.S. premiere of Brett Dean's Piano Concerto Gneixendorfer Musik - Eine Winterreise (Gneixendorf Music-A Winter's Journey) under conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. Co-commissioned by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the piece is the final chapter of Biss' Beethoven/5 project, for which he commissioned prominent composers to write a piece in response to each of Beethoven's five concertos. Dean's concerto was inspired by Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat Major, Op. 73 "Emperor," which Biss will also perform.

Of his concerto, Dean says "Beethoven's magnificent edifice needed to be held at arm's length, but his piece started creeping into my composition and was soon inhabiting it in an unexpected way. Subconscious motivic links were revealed, aspects of the piano figuration came to the surface, and the orchestration is within the paradigm of what Beethoven might have done."

The title of Dean's piece references Beethoven's calamitous visit to his brother in Gneixendorf, Austria - a trip ending with his departure in an open-carriage ride that led to illness and eventual death. Dean says of the piece, "My new concerto is an attempt to enter into the state of mind of the composer as he confronts profound familial conflicts as well as failing health towards the very end of his life." Gneixendorfer Musik - Eine Winterreise makes the uncommon choice to have the soloist play two different instruments - the soloist alternates between the traditional grand piano and an upright piano hidden inside the orchestra, one with a distinctly muffled sound suggesting Beethoven's struggle to hear his own music.

Gneixendorfer Musik - Eine Winterreise premiered in 2020 with the Swedish Symphony Orchestra and has since been performed at the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic, the Orchestre National de Lyon, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and the Wrocław Philharmonic.

Listen to Biss and Dean in conversation about Beethoven on Wigmore Hall Podcasts

Biss says of his Beethoven/5 project:

"Beethoven/5, takes five different compositional voices - from different parts of the world and different musical traditions - and asks each of them to write a work which, in whatever way they see fit, responds to one of the Beethoven piano concerti. Those five works trace Beethoven's development over decades, and are already remarkably diverse; the five responses will surely be more diverse still, and should constitute both a significant addition to the repertoire, and a testament to Beethoven's near endless reach."

Past commissions include: Timo Andres' The Blind Banister, paired with Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2; Sally Beamish's City Stanzas paired with Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1; Salvatore Sciarrino's Il sogno di Stradella paired with Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4; and Caroline Shaw's Watermark paired with Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3.

Beethoven/5 is part of Biss' continued exploration of Beethoven, to which he has dedicated over a decade of his career. Hailed as "one of today's foremost Beethoven exponents" (Chicago Tribune), Biss completed his recording cycle of all 30 piano sonatas in 2020, and also communicates his passion for the composer's music through mediums other than performance - he goes beyond the concert hall with projects that inspire audiences, readers, and listeners, to form a personal connection with music.

Biss' Audible Original UNQUIET, released in 2020, examines the interplay between his personal struggles and lifelong passion for Beethoven. After spending nine years immersed in the sonatas, Biss found himself afflicted with bouts of crippling anxiety. Using his struggle as a means to connect with both Beethoven's music and Beethoven himself, UNQUIET conveys how art both reveals and heals, and how facing a tempestuous artist helped Biss face himself.

Biss also explored the Beethoven sonatas through the online course Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, available via Coursera in partnership with the Curtis Institute of Music. Aimed at musicians and music enthusiasts alike, Biss' lectures feature analysis and historical background from the perspective of a performer, rather than that of a musicologist.

Other writing includes his 2011 e-book, Beethoven's Shadow, the first Amazon Kindle Single written by a classical musician, which details Biss' relationship with Beethoven as he began recording and performing the full cycle of sonatas.

Additional concert appearances in the U.S. this season include Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 with Donald Runnicles and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on January 19 and 21, and Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 with the Rochester Philharmonic on March 2 and 4. Biss also performs recitals at the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society on April 27, and at the People's Symphony Concerts at New York City's Town Hall on May 7.

Jonathan Biss is a world-renowned pianist who shares his deep musical curiosity through the concert hall and beyond. Besides performing with leading orchestras, he is devoted to his work as a teacher, musical thinker, and one of the great Beethoven interpreters of our time. He is currently Co-Artistic Director alongside Mitsuko Uchida at the Marlboro Music Festival, where he's spent fourteen summers. He also led a popular online course via Coursera, reaching more than 150,000 people internationally. Biss writes extensively on his repertoire and has authored four audio- and e-books, including UNQUIET: My Life with Beethoven (2020), the first Audible Original by a classical musician and one of Audible's top audiobooks of 2020.

Biss's endeavors represent his complete approach to music-making, and desire to imbue audiences with his own passion for music. Previous projects 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 gave master classes at Carnegie Hall and published the Kindle Single Coda on the topic. His previous Kindle Singles also include Beethoven's Shadow, and A Pianist Under the Influence, the latter of which coincided with his project Schumann: Under the Influence, a 30-concert exploration of the composer's role in musical history, and recording of Schumann and Dvořák piano quintets with the Elias String Quartet.

Growing up surrounded by music, he began playing the piano at age six and went on to study with Evelyne Brancart at Indiana University and Leon Fleisher at the Curtis Institute of Music. He was subsequently on the Curtis faculty for ten years.

Friday February 10 and Saturday February 11 at 8pm
Ordway Concert Hall, St. Paul, MN
Sunday February 12 at 2pm
Tedd Mann Concert Hall, Minneapolis, MN

Jonathan Biss, piano
Francesco Lecce-Chong, conductor

Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

MOZART Selections from Ballet Music from Idomeneo, Rè di Creta
DEAN Piano Concerto Gneixendorfer Musik - Eine Winterreise (US Premiere)
BEETHOVEN Concerto No. 5 for Piano and Orchestra, "Emperor"

Tickets range from $12 - $50 and are available here or by phone at (651) 291-1144.
P.O. Box 1309.

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