Diapason, the major French classical music magazine, celebrates pianist Jonathan Biss and his acclaimed Beethoven Complete Piano Sonatas cycle by naming both Volumes 5 and 7 Diapason D’or in its June issue.
The recordings, released on the artist’s own label, are part of Jonathan’s nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas, the seventh volume being released earlier this year. The recording cycle will be complete in 2020, at the same time as his final Coursera lectures on the sonatas.
This also coincides with Biss’ other 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.
Biss writes in issue:
“Recording Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas has been among the most overwhelming experiences of my life. The reason for this, I think, is not precisely the difficulty of the music; rather, it is the intensity of the man. Beethoven’s musical language evolved dramatically over the course of his life, and his sonatas cover an astonishing amount of emotional territory: he is alternately lofty and earthy, tender and brusque, filled with fury and quick to laughter. But whatever he is, he is intensely so: the feeling he is expressing, at any given moment, is taken to its limit, and often beyond.
“So playing Beethoven means giving all of yourself. To play the Appassionata is to storm your way into hell; to play the slow movement of the Hammerklavier is to confront grief in a way we normally make every effort not to; to play the last movement of op. 109 is to wrestle one’s way towards utopia. Playing any of these, once, in a concert hall, takes all of oneself; doing it repeatedly, in a recording studio, trying each time to say something about the music that is personal and precise and true, has made me as dizzy as I’ve ever been. Difficult, for sure, but I feel such gratitude – to be able to touch these pieces, to live with them and learn from them. It is a greater gift than I could ever express.”