Pianist Jonathan Biss continues his nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of all of Beethoven's piano sonatas. In addition to the monumental"Hammerklavier" sonata, the album includes Op. 14, No. 1 and Op. 27, No. 1. As a performer who also teaches and writes about Beethoven, Jonathan has decided to approach the full cycle thematically rather than chronologically, for which decision he has been praised, in addition to the praise that he has received for his sharp technique and deep sincerity. Starting with Volume 4, Jonathan began collaborating with DFTBA (founded by John Green, author of The Fault In Our Stars, and his brother and video blog collaborator, Hank Green) and Meyer Media (founded by producer Andreas Meyer). These partnerships provide a flexible platform to integrate Jonathan's varied recording, writing, and teaching activities, most of which revolve around sharing his passion for Beethoven with as many people as possible.
Quotes from Jonathan *
It is the very existence of the Hammerklavier that is impossible. Beginning and ending with gestures of stubborn defiance, in between, it doesn’t so much break with precedent as simply ignore it. It is a psychodrama of behemoth proportions that absolutely demands your attention without making the minutest play for your affection; it is Beethoven at his grittiest, and most devastating.
Instead, the Hammerklavier is as long as it is because it is constantly bursting at the seams: its emotional intensity cannot be contained, and thus it spills over, everywhere.
Enthralling as this all is, nothing in the sonata thus far has prepared us for what is coming; nothing could. The Hammerklavier's third movement is the longest slow movement in the literature, and – no hyperbole here – perhaps the greatest tragic utterance western art has produced. Its unbearably raw despair in no way undermines its dignity, and the meeting of those two qualities – so often, it is one or the other – make this movement an experience like none other.
Trying to describe the terrible power of this music is an exercise in frustration: its greatness lies precisely in its evocation of a despair beyond words. And when, just occasionally, Beethoven alights on a major key, the tenderness in it is almost physically painful: it is the consolation you offer to someone whose pain, you understand, cannot be eased. But still, you try.
To the end, the Hammerklavier is unapologetically enigmatic: the very last phrase is a blaze of glory, but it is also so totally rhythmically off-kilter, one struggles to even identify its meter. It’s a pig-headed, my-way-or-the-highway ending to a piece that, from start to finish, dares to be unlovable, and is all the more riveting for it.
Press & Radio *
Of Volume 1, "There's a wonderfully unforced quality to Biss's playing that's as effective in Beethoven as it was in the outstanding Schumann disc with which he really made his name four years ago. The way in which he eases into the opening movement of the A flat Funeral March Sonata Op 26, or perfectly weights the climaxes in Op 81a, Les Adieux, are marks of an outstanding pianist; for those who stay the course, this could be a Beethoven cycle to treasure.
~ The Guardian
Of Volume 1, "I would like to be around when he gets to the end of his pilgrimage, for this is a marvellously promising beginning by one of the most thoughtful and technically accomplished pianists of the younger generation."
~ BBC Music Magazine
Of Volume 2, "So infectious is Biss's love for these works, so enviable his technique, that however many versions of them you have, you need to add this one."
~ BBC Music Magazine
Of Volume 2, "A major statement from a striking new talent."
~ All Music
For further details on upcoming performances with venue links check out Jonathan's calendar!