On November 1, Jonathan Biss will release on Orchid Classics, the ninth and final volume of his nine year traversal of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas featuring Sonatas Nos. 7, 18 & 32. Beethoven’s 32 sonatas have been Jonathan’s life-long companions and a source of constant inspiration. In 2011 he published Beethoven’s Shadow, the first Kindle eBook to be written by a classical musician, in which he explored the rationale behind the recording of the sonatas, giving an insight into the power of Beethoven’s music.
In 2020, the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, Jonathan’s multi-faceted approach of recordings, concerts, writing, commissioning and teaching all comes together with a year completely dedicated to Beethoven. During the course of a year, Jonathan will give more than 50 recitals, including cycles of the complete sonatas in London (Wigmore Hall) and Berkeley; multi-concert-series in Washington, Philadelphia and Seattle; as well as recitals in Rome, Budapest, New York and Sydney.
2020 also marks the culmination of his collaboration with the Curtis Institute of Music and Coursera which spawned a free on-line course that has now reached over 150,000 learners in 185 countries. Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas is complemented by meet-ups and Google Hangout “office hours”, also a feature of his Beethoven Sonata cycle at the Wigmore Hall.
Beethoven’s contemporary legacy is equally important to Jonathan who initiated Beethoven/5, a project to commission five piano concertos as companion works for each of Beethoven’s piano concertos. The resulting pieces re-imagine Beethoven for the twenty-first century: Timo Andres The Blind Banister (2015), Sally Beamish City Stanzas (2017), Salvatore Sciarrino Il sogno di Stradella (2017), Caroline Shaw Watermark (2019) and Brett Dean Gneixendorfer musik – Eine Winterreise (2020).
Asked why, Jonathan responded: “Because he takes my breath away. Because he does so frequently, and in a way no other musical or life experience can replicate. Because he can do so through so many different heightened emotional states: despair in the slow movement of the Hammerklavier Sonata; warm-bloodedness in the second movement of the Sonata Op. 90; rage in the Appassionata Sonata; sheer transcendence in the G Major Piano Concerto and most everything else he wrote. Because I can see no better way of losing myself than in these wonders. Because I have to.”
Beethoven Piano Sonatas – Complete Recordings