This week, Jonathan Biss launches his latest Beethoven project, Beethoven/5, for which the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) will commission five composers to write new piano concertos, each inspired by one of Beethoven’s five piano concertos.

The five-year plan begins this Thanksgiving in Minnesota with the SPCO, where Biss will play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and the new concerto by Timo Andres that it inspired. The SPCO is the lead commissioner on all five pieces, including new concertos by Sally Beamish, paired with Beethoven 1, to premiere in 2016-17; Salvatore Sciarrino, paired with Beethoven 4, to premiere in 2017-18; Caroline Shaw, paired with Beethoven 3, to premiere in 2018-19, and Brett Dean, paired with Beethoven 5, to premiere in 2019-20. International and national orchestra partners for each commission will be announced at later dates.

Biss writes of this project: “Beethoven’s music has been an obsession for as long as I can remember—working on it has been a constant source of joy, inspiration, and frustration. In this, I’m joined by most musicians I know, regardless of age, training, or background. That is why the idea of asking five very different composers to write a piece that, in some way, responds to Beethoven, is so exciting to me: each of them will have a relationship with him that is unique and intense, and these five works should constitute a significant and varied addition to the concerto repertoire. Beethoven’s own five concerti cover a huge amount of formal and emotional territory. I’m sure that these new works will as well, and I’m incredibly excited to discover them.”

“The SPCO is thrilled to partner with Jonathan to bring this ambitious project to fruition,” says Director of Artistic Planning for the SPCO, Kyu-Young Kim. “We are constantly seeking to find new entry points into our core repertoire, the music of Beethoven and the work of living composers serving as twin pillars of that repertoire. When Jonathan, who has collaborated with us for almost a decade and has developed an amazing chemistry with our players, introducedthe idea for Beethoven/5, we leapt at the chance to take the lead in creating a new body of work that will deepen our audience’s understanding and appreciation of works, old and new.”

Timo Andres writes, “With this grand commissioning project, Jonathan is demonstrating that it’s possible to think about Beethoven a lot, and simultaneously be a musical instigator of the present day. I think we’re similar in that way—it’s the reason there are few musicians I trust as implicitly as Jonathan. I’m thrilled to be writing my third and largest piano concerto for him, which will be our second collaboration.”

Biss’s 2014-15 season saw the relaunch of his hugely popular online course, Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, in a new format and with new lectures to come in May 2015; the release of Volume 4 of his nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of all of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, and performances of Beethoven’s music in concert halls around the world.

Program information:

Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2

Andres Piano Concerto No. 3

Saint Paul Chamber Chamber Orchestra

Jonathan Biss, piano

Ordway Concert Hall

November 27, 2015, 8:00 pm

November 28, 2015, 8:00 pm

November 29, 2015, 2:00 pm