Album comprises Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10, No. 3; Sonata No. 18 in E-flat major, Op. 31, No. 3 (“The Hunt”); and Beethoven’s last sonata, No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
“…thoughtful and probing… one of today’s foremost Beethoven exponents.”
—John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
NEW YORK, NEW YORK (October 1, 2019) — A key thread in pianist Jonathan Biss’s decade-long, multi-project Beethoven immersion has been his journey to record all 32 of the composer’s piano sonatas, which he began in 2011 and completes with the release of the cycle’s ninth and final volume by Orchid Classics on Friday, November 1. Comprising Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10/3; Sonata No. 18 in E-flat major, Op. 31/3 (“The Hunt”); and Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111, the new album is one of many highlights of Mr. Biss’s season—coinciding with worldwide celebrations of Beethoven’s 250th birthday—devoted not only to the composer, but the sonatas themselves.
Regarding the 32 piano sonatas, which have been Mr. Biss’s primary focus among all of Beethoven’s works, he said:
“Beethoven’s sonatas have been a constant presence in my life for nearly as long as I have been playing the piano. ‘Presence’ is too mild a word, though: ‘force’ comes a bit closer to conveying the space he occupies in my heart and head. For playing Beethoven does not feel like a matter of choice: his concerns are so all-encompassing, his mastery so astonishing, his personality so combative (yet, somehow, also so sympathetic), one cannot look (listen?) away.”
Prior to embarking on his sonata recording cycle, Mr. Biss wrote Beethoven’s Shadow (2011)—the first Kindle Single by a classical musician—in which he reflects on his lifelong relationship with the Beethoven piano sonatas. His interpretations of these works on earlier volumes in the cycle have garnered wide acclaim, including multiple Diapason d’Or awards and a critics’ pick in BBC Music Magazine. In 2013, shortly after commencing this recording project, Mr. Biss also began to survey these works via 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 with the final sets of lectures appearing September 30 and January 6, he will have covered all 32 sonatas.
In concert this season, Mr. Biss performs Beethoven’s music almost exclusively, including complete sonata cycles at Berkeley’s Hertz Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, and the McKnight Center for the Performing Arts at Oklahoma State University. He also performs sonata recitals and mini-cycles around the U.S. this season, including at the 92nd Street Y in New York, 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.
Beyond the sonatas, Mr. Biss’s Beethoven focus has also included explorations of the composer’s five piano concertos. In 2015, he launched Beethoven/5, a commissioning project in association with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in which five composers selected by him each write a piano concerto in response to one of those by Beethoven. He has so far premiered project commissions from Timo Andres, Sally Beamish, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Caroline Shaw, with the final concerto—Brett Dean’s Gneixendorfer Musik—to be premiered this season with co-commissioner The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The new concerto is performed alongside the work that inspired it, Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto, and Mr. Biss also performs the “Emperor” Concerto this season with Osmo Vänskä and Curtis Symphony Orchestra as part of a seven-city tour including Carnegie Hall.
Mr. Biss has described these past ten years immersed in Beethoven’s music as “one of the most profound experiences of [his] life.
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, including the first Kindle Single written by a classical musician (Beethoven’s Shadow).
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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JONATHAN BISS: BEETHOVEN’S PIANO SONATAS, VOL. 9
ORCHID CLASSICS (ORC100109)
Jonathan Biss, piano
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Piano Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10, No. 3
Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-flat major, Op. 31, No. 3 (“The Hunt”)
Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111
Recorded on June 9-12 at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York, NY.