In 2015 Jonathan Biss launched Beethoven/5, a commissioning project in association with The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Over the course of five years, each of the five composers selected by Jonathan will write a piano concerto in response to one of Beethoven’s.
“Beethoven’s music has been an obsession for me 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.
“One of the central tasks for any musician — composer or performer — is to come to terms with Beethoven. This is not, really, a matter of choice: it is entirely possible to prefer the music of Mozart, Schumann, or Bartók, but Beethoven’s voice is too powerful, and the influence he had on the evolution of the musical language too immense, to be ignored.
“What this means is that any serious composer will have plenty to ‘say’ on the subject of Beethoven. That is why the idea of asking 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.
“In 2015 I asked five very different composers to address this question. The project, called 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.
“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.”
2015-16: TIMO ANDRES, paired with Beethoven 2
2016-17: SALLY BEAMISH, paired with Beethoven 1
2017-18: SALVATORE SCIARRINO, paired with Beethoven 4
2018-19: CAROLINE SHAW, paired with Beethoven 3
2019-20: BRETT DEAN, paired with Beethoven 5
Lead commissioner on all 5 pieces:
SAINT PAUL CHAMBER ORCHESTRA