Jonathan Biss is a world-renowned pianist who shares his deep musical curiosity with classical music lovers in the concert hall and beyond. Over the course of two decades on the concert stage he has forged relationships with the New York Philharmonic; the Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Philharmonia orchestras; the Boston, Chicago, and Swedish Radio symphony orchestras; and the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Budapest Festival, and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras, among many others. In addition to performing a full schedule of concerts, he has spent eleven summers at the Marlboro Music Festival and written extensively about his relationships with the composers with whom he shares a stage. A member of the faculty of his alma mater the Curtis Institute of Music since 2010, Biss led the first massive open online course (MOOC) offered by a classical music conservatory, Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, which has reached more than 150,000 people in 185 countries. Part 3 is set to come out in January 2018, and he will continue to add lectures until he covers all of the sonatas.
This season Biss continues his latest Beethoven project, Beethoven/5, for which the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is co-commissioning five composers to write new piano concertos, each inspired by one of Beethoven's. The five-year plan began with Biss premiering Timo Andres's “The Blind Banister,” a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music, which was followed by Sally Beamish's “City Stanzas” last season. This fall with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra he premieres Salvatore Sciarrino's “Il Sogno di Stradella,” paired with Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4, and goes on to play it with the Cleveland Orchestra later in the year. The first two commissions continue to have a life, with “The Blind Banister” at the Jacksonville and New World symphonies and Beamish's “City Stanzas” at the BBC Philharmonic, Orchestre de chambre de Paris, and Swedish Chamber Orchestra, highlighting Biss's commitment to building the repertoire. In the final two years of the project he will premiere concertos by Caroline Shaw and Brett Dean.
In addition to his involvement at Marlboro, Biss spends the summer of 2017 continuing his complete Beethoven piano sonata performance cycles at the Aspen and Ravinia festivals, which he also begins at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra this season. Audiences will be able to experience all the piano sonatas in seven concerts over several years. In early 2018 Biss tours with Midori and Antoine Lederlin across Switzerland, Germany, and England, and with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in California.
Biss has embarked on a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas, and in early 2018 he releases the seventh volume, including the sonatas Op. 2, No. 2; Op. 49, No. 2; Op. 31, No.2 (“Tempest”), and Op. 109. Upon the release of the fourth volume, BBC Music Magazine said, “Jonathan Biss will surely take his place among the greats if he continues on this exalted plane.” His bestselling eBook, Beethoven’s Shadow, describing the process of recording the sonatas and published by RosettaBooks in 2011, was the first Kindle Single written by a classical musician. The recording cycle will be complete in 2020, at the same time as the final Coursera lectures on the sonatas.
Last season Biss examined the concept of a composer's “late style” in various concert programs at Carnegie Hall, the Barbican Centre, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and San Francisco Performances; gave masterclasses at Carnegie in connection with the idea, and published the Kindle Single Coda on the topic. A previous Biss initiative, Schumann: Under the Influence, was a 30-concert exploration of the composer's role in musical history, for which he also recorded Schumann and Dvořák piano quintets with the Elias String Quartet and wrote an Amazon Kindle Single on Schumann, A Pianist Under the Influence.
Throughout his career Biss has been an advocate for new music. Prior to the Beethoven/5 project, he 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.
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, Biss began his piano studies at age six, and his first musical collaborations were with his mother and father. He studied at Indiana University with Evelyne Brancart and at the Curtis Institute of Music with Leon Fleisher.
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 the 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award. His recent albums for EMI won 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.