About This Performance
San Francisco Performances favorite Jonathan Biss returns with an ambitious and intriguing series of recitals that ask contemporary American composers of three generations to consider and musically respond to the legacy of Franz Schubert. Alvin Singleton (b. 1940) draws inspiration from a wide stream including folk and spiritual, classical and pop, with often surprising and theatrical nuance. At just 23, Tyson Gholston Davis has been commissioned by an astonishing array of artists and ensembles, including the Juilliard String Quartet and Eighth Blackbird.
Jonathan Biss’s boundless curiosity about humanity and art make him a thoughtful and compelling performer. He is known for assembling programs that plumb the depths of history, explore sparks of creativity and affirm the unity of shared experience. San Francisco Classical Voice called him, “a pianist whose probing, incisive, and deeply considered performances are consistently challenging and rewarding.”
TYSON GHOLSTON DAVIS: New Work
SCHUBERT: Impromptu in F Minor, D. 935, No. 1 and Sonata in C Minor, D. 958
Neil O’Donnell and Chris Motley
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 is Co-Artistic Director alongside Mitsuko Uchida at the Marlboro Music Festival, where he has spent fifteen summers. He also recently led a massive open online course (MOOC) via Coursera, reaching an international audience of over 150,000. 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.
During the 2022–23 season, Biss gives solo recitals in cities including Cologne, New York, and Philadelphia, performing works by Berg, Schumann, and Schubert; he performs Beethoven trios with Midori and cellist Antoine Lederlin in Cologne, Engardin, Hamburg, London, and Tokyo; and appears as soloist with the Atlanta Symphony, Budapest Symphony, and the Rochester Philharmonic, as well as with the New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”).
Throughout his career, Biss has advocated for new music. This year he continues his ongoing Beethoven/5 commissioning project, in association with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, that pairs each Beethoven concerto with a new concerto composed in response. This season, he performs Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 paired with a piano concerto inspired by that work: Brett Dean’s Gneixendorfer Musik—Eine Winterreise in its U.S. premiere with the SPCO, as well as both concertos with the Melbourne Symphony. Biss has performed the Dean and fifth Beethoven concertos together in concerts with the Dresden Philharmonic, NFM Wrocław Philharmonic, and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. He has also performed the Dean concerto separately with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Among the earlier Beethoven/5 commissions are Caroline Shaw’s Watermark, inspired by Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3; Timo Andres’s The Blind Banister (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music) inspired by the second piano concerto; Sally Beamish’s City Stanzas paired with Beethoven’s first piano concerto, and Salvatore Sciarrino's Il Sogno di Stradella paired with the fourth. Prior to the Beethoven/5, project Biss commissioned Lunaire Variations by David Ludwig, Interlude II by Leon Kirchner, Wonderer by Lewis Spratlan, and Three Pieces for Piano and a concerto by Bernard Rands, which he premiered with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He has also premiered a piano quintet by William Bolcom.
In 2020, coinciding with the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, Biss concluded over a decade-long immersion in the composer’s music, which included concert series, recordings, writings, lectures, and commissions of Beethoven-inspired works. Through the course of his Beethoven study, Biss recorded the composer’s complete piano sonatas, and offered insights to all 32 landmark works via his free, online Coursera lecture series Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas. His final Coursera installments appeared in January 2020, and Orchid Classics released the nine-disc sonata cycle box set the following March. That same month, in a virtual recital presented by the 92nd Street Y, Biss performed Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas for an online audience of more than 280,000 people, one of the first major at-home concerts of the early pandemic era. This was followed by a daily video series of selections from the Beethoven sonatas presented via Biss’ Facebook page over the course of several weeks.
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.
Biss represents the third generation in a family of professional musicians including his grandmother Raya Garbousova, one of the first famous 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, Biss began his piano studies at age six, with his first musical collaborations alongside his mother and father. He studied with Evelyne Brancart at Indiana University and Leon Fleisher at the Curtis Institute of Music. He has since appeared with major orchestras internationally, 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. In Europe, he has appeared with the BBC Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Berlin, Staatskapelle Dresden, and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, among many other ensembles.
Biss has been recognized with numerous honors, including the Leonard Bernstein Award presented at the 2005 Schleswig-Holstein Festival, Wolf Trap’s Shouse Debut Artist Award, the Andrew Wolf Memorial Chamber Music Award, Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the 2003 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award, and a 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award. His albums for EMI won the Diapason d’Or de l’Année and Edison awards. He was an artist-in-residence on American Public Media’s Performance Today and was the first American chosen to participate in the BBC’s New Generation Artist program. He is also on the piano faculty of the New England Conservatory.