Jonathan Biss is already established as a recording artist with prizewinning Schumann and Beethoven recitals for EMI Classics. He was the first American to become a BBC New Generation Artist (2002-4) and among his many career awards are an Avery Fisher Career Grant, support from the Borletti-Buitoni Trust and the Schleswig-Holstein Festival’s Leonard Bernstein Award.
In addition to UK appearances with the BBC Symphony and BBC Philharmonic, he has twice appeared in the Southbank Centre’s International Piano Series and at Wigmore Hall in 2008 gave a series of recitals as part of a trio with Midori and Johannes Moser.
At his Wigmore Hall recital in May 2009, Jonathan Biss chose to preface two of Schubert’s piano sonatas with five studies from the collection Játékok (Games) by the contemporary Hungarian composer György Kurtág, who had been the subject of an 80th-birthday tribute series at the Hall in Autumn 2006.
Jonathan Biss on Schubert and Kurtág:
“It’s very interesting how these kinds of pairings across the centuries work, It’s not only that Kurtág responds to Schubert but also that the reverse is true. Somehow Schubert’s music is changed and affected, and its chemistry is altered by sharing a platform with Kurtág.
I find it very difficult to explain why it is that certain composers go well together … [but] Kurtág, because he has such deep roots in the past and is the most sensitive of souls, is a natural partner for Schubert.
What I can never get over with Kurtág’s music is the ear for sound, It’s unlike anyone else’s and it’s unbelievably sophisticated. I’ve never played for him, but I’ve heard him give master-classes … and I don’t think I can think of another musician – performer or composer – who is as clear in his mind about what he’s looking for in terms of sonority. That is one of the great joys for me in playing his music and listening to it. You have these sounds come out of the instrument that you wouldn’t really have thought possible.”
ReviewsFrom the very first notes, the American pianist entranced the public by displaying an uncommonly clear, light touch without ever being inconsistent, investing every note with magic, and maintaining a highly coherent interpretation of every phrase of the musical discourse. - Luxemburger Wort