Jonathan Biss

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Jonathan Biss
Jonathan Biss at NPR studios in Washington, D.C.
Background information
Born (1980-09-18) September 18, 1980 (age 39)
Bloomington, Indiana
Occupation(s)pianist, teacher
Years active2000–present

Jonathan Biss (born September 18, 1980)[1] is an American pianist, teacher, and writer based in Philadelphia. He is the co-artistic director (with Mitsuko Uchida) of the Marlboro Music Festival.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Biss was born into a family of musicians in Bloomington, Indiana. His paternal grandmother was one of the first well-known female cellists, the Russian cellist Raya Garbousova, for whom Samuel Barber wrote his cello concerto. His parents, Miriam Fried and Paul Biss, are both violinists.[3][4] After studying at Indiana University, where both of his parents taught, Biss entered the Curtis Institute of Music at the age of 17 to study with Leon Fleisher.[5][6] Interviewed by The New York Times in 2011 in the run-up to Biss' Carnegie Hall debut recital, Leon Fleisher said of his pupil:

His ability and interest go for things of transcendence and sublimeness. That made a great impression on me. He took a very healthy road that started with chamber music, both with his mother and then more extensively at places like Ravinia and Marlboro, and he got to be known by the elders in the profession as somebody to look out for.[7]


Biss made his New York recital debut in 2000 at the 92nd Street Y. In early 2001, he performed with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Kurt Masur.[8] His European career was launched in 2002 when he became the first American to be selected as a BBC New Generation Artist,[9] winning a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award the following year.[10] He made his recital debut at Carnegie Hall in January 2011.[7]

He has appeared with the foremost orchestras in the United States including the Los Angeles[11] and New York philharmonics;[8] the Boston,[12] Chicago,[13] and San Francisco Symphonies,[14] and the Cleveland[15] and Philadelphia orchestras.[16] Biss is a frequent guest soloist in Europe where he has appeared with the London Philharmonic Orchestra,[17] the BBC Symphony Orchestra[18] and the London Symphony Orchestra,[19] as well as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Rotterdam Philharmonic,[20] Oslo Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra,[21] Budapest Festival Orchestra,[22] Staatskapelle Berlin,[23] Staatskapelle Dresden,[24] Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.[25] An enthusiastic performer of chamber music, Biss has appeared with renowned artists such as Mitsuko Uchida,[26] Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode,[27] Midori,[28] and Kim Kashkashian.[29]

In 2010, Biss was appointed to the piano faculty as Neubauer Family Chair at his alma mater the Curtis Institute of Music.[30] As part of his teaching career, Jonathan Biss became the first classical musician to partner with Coursera. Together they created Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, a free video course on several of Beethoven's most famous sonatas.[31] The course has reached more than 150,000 students in more than 185 countries.[32][33] He will continue to add lectures until he covers all the sonatas.

Throughout his career, Biss has been particularly noted for his immersive focus on single composers. In 2011, on Beethoven's birthday, he released the eBook Beethoven's Shadow, a 19,000 word meditation on the art of performing Beethoven's piano sonatas. Biss was the first classical musician to be commissioned to write a Kindle eBook.[34] Shortly after, in January 2012, the record label Onyx released the first of Jonathan Biss’ recordings of the complete Beethoven Sonatas. The disc was the first in a series of nine discs to be released over as many years. To date, eight albums have been recorded and the ninth will be released in November 2019.[35] Biss dedicated his 2012-2013 season to Robert Schumann, declaring himself to be "a fanatic for every note Schumann wrote."[36] The project was entitled "Schumann: Under the Influence" and explored Schumann's influences and his legacy. Biss performed a series of concerts internationally with pieces by Schumann's predecessors such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Purcell, and composers who have been influenced by his music such as Leoš Janáček, Alban Berg and contemporary composers György Kurtág and Timo Andres.[37] As part of the project, Biss wrote a Kindle Single eBook entitled A Pianist Under the Influence. The work explained Biss's lifelong, intense, multi-layered relationship with the composer's music and was excerpted on Slate.[38][39] Biss also released an album of Schumann and Dvořák with Elias String Quartet.[40]

Biss is also an advocate for new music. He has commissioned pieces including 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.[41] He has also premiered a piano quintet by William Bolcom. In 2016 Biss launched Beethoven/5, for which the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is commissioning five composers to write new piano concertos, each inspired by one of Beethoven's five piano concertos.[42] Biss has already premiered "The Blind Banister" by Timo Andres, which was named a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Music, "City Stanzas" by Sally Beamish, "Il sogno di Stradella" by Salvatore Sciarrino and "Watermark" by Caroline Shaw. In 2020 he will premiere "Gneixendorfer Musik - eine Winterreise" by Brett Dean.

Biss has begun examining, both in concert and academically, the concept of a composer's "late style," focusing on musicians who went in surprising directions towards the end of their lives. He has put together several programs of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Britten, Elgar, Gesualdo, Kurtág, Mozart, Schubert, and Schumann's later works, which he performed with the Brentano Quartet and Mark Padmore in the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, and across the United States. He also gave masterclasses at Carnegie Hall in connection with the idea of late style and published Coda, a Kindle single on the topic in March 2017.[43]

On August 6, 2018 Marlboro Music announced that Biss would assume the role of co-artistic director (with Mitsuko Uchida) of the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont. Biss has a long connection with Marlboro where he spent 12 summers as both a junior and senior participant.

Starting in September 2019, in the lead-up to the 250th anniversary of Beethoven's birth in December 2020, Biss will perform a whole season focused around Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, with more than 50 recitals worldwide. This includes performing the complete sonatas at the Wigmore Hall and Berkeley, multi-concert-series in Washington, Philadelphia and Seattle, as well as recitals in Rome, Budapest, New York and Sydney.



  • Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Vol. 8 - Nos. 8 (Pathétique), 10, 22, 31, Jonathan Biss, 2019
  • Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Vol. 7 - Nos. 2, 20, 17 (The Tempest), 30, Jonathan Biss, 2018
  • Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Vol. 6 – Nos. 9, 13 & 29 (Hammerklavier), Jonathan Biss, 2017
  • Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Vol. 5 – Nos. 3, 25, 27 and 28, Jonathan Biss, 2016
  • Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Vol. 4 – Nos. 1, 6, 19 and 23 (Appassionata), Jonathan Biss, 2015
  • Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Vol. 3 – Nos. 15 (Pastoral), 16 & 21 (Waldstein), Jonathan Biss, Onyx Classics, 2014[44]
  • Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Vol. 2 – Nos. 4, 14 (Moonlight) & 24, (A Thérèse), Jonathan Biss, Onyx Classics, 2013[35]
  • Schumann: Piano Quintet; Dvorak: Piano Quintet No.2, Jonathan Biss and Elias Quartet, Onyx Classics, 2012[40]
  • Beethoven Sonatas Vol. 1 – Nos. 5, 11, 12 (Funeral March) & 26 (Les Adieux), Jonathan Biss, Onyx Classics, 2012 [45]
  • Schubert: Piano Sonata in A Major D959; Piano Sonata in C Major 'Reliquie' D840; and two Kurtág Piano Miniatures, Jonathan Biss, Live From Wigmore Hall, WHLive0030, 2009[46]
  • Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 21 & 22, Jonathan Biss and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, EMI Classics, 2008[47]
  • Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Jonathan Biss, EMI Classics, 2007[48]
  • Schumann Recital – Fantasie, Kreisleriana & Arabeske, Jonathan Biss, EMI Classics, 2007
  • Beethoven, Schumann: Piano Works, Jonathan Biss, EMI Classics, 2004[49]


  1. ^ "Jonathan Biss - Steinway & Sons".
  2. ^ "Mitsuko Uchida & Jonathan Biss, Artistic Directors". Marlboro Music. Marlboro Music. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  3. ^ Swinkels, Niels (June 12, 2013). "Jonathan Biss: A Super, Human, Musical Mission". San Francisco Classical Voice. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  4. ^ Giovetti, Olivia (January 18, 2011). "Jonathan Biss". Time Out New York. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  5. ^ Smith, Tim (January 20, 2011). "Pianist Jonathan Biss, fresh from Carnegie Hall". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  6. ^ Child, Fred (2004). "Meet Jonathan Biss PT Young Artist-in-Residence". NPR Performance Today. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Kozinn, Allan (January 14, 2011). "The Way to Carnegie Hall? Success". The New York Times. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  8. ^ a b Tommasini, Anthony (November 24, 2002). "Music; New Ways To Conquer New York". The New York Times. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  9. ^ "New Generation Artists A to Z". BBC Radio 3. BBC Radio 3. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  10. ^ "Jonathan Biss piano". Borletti-Buitoni Trust. BBC. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  11. ^ Pasles, Chris (December 10, 2007). "An inspired pairing of talents at Disney Hall". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  12. ^ Eichler, Jeremy (April 23, 2013). "BSO will tour China, Japan". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  13. ^ von Rhein, John (November 13, 2006). "`Prince' Morlot rocked, but Biss just missed". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  14. ^ Tircuit, Heuwell (February 26, 2008). "All Mozart, All Marvelous". San Francisco Classical Voice. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  15. ^ Donald Rosenberg (November 30, 2007). "Cleveland Orchestra concert showcases splendid performance by pianist Biss". The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  16. ^ Whiteside, Gregg (August 23, 2013). "Jonathan Biss Plays Mozart On The Philadelphia Orchestra In Concert Broadcast: Sunday, August 25". WRTI. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  17. ^ Anderson, Colin (October 28, 2011). "London Philharmonic/Gaffigan – Strauss & Rachmaninov – Jonathan Biss plays Mozart". The Classical Source. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  18. ^ Verney-Elliott, Alex (December 11, 2009). "BBCSO/Spano Jonathan Biss". The Classical Source. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  19. ^ Toronyi-Lalic, Igor (March 14, 2011). "Biss, London Symphony Orchestra, Davis, Barbican". The Arts Desk. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  20. ^ "Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra – 5th of Tsjaikovski". Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  21. ^ "November 10, 2008 A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH". Performance Today. American Public Media. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  22. ^ "BFO's Concert Season Closes with British Conductor and US Pianist". Budapesti Fesztiválzenekar. Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  23. ^ Yaross, Barbara (February 5, 2004). "Jonathan Biss". The Chicago Reader. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  24. ^ "Dresden / Frauenkirche: 10 Symphony Concert Staatskapelle Dresden". Der Neue Merker. Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  25. ^ "The DSO on the radio - broadcast dates". dso-berlin.du. Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  26. ^ "Archived: Borletti-Buitoni Trust Celebrated with Mitsuko Uchida". Southbank Centre. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  27. ^ Schweitzer, Vivian (February 15, 2010). "Two Pianos, Four Hands, Many Twists". The New York Times. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  28. ^ "Midori with Jonathan Biss and Friends". The Kennedy Center. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  29. ^ Clements, Andrew (October 22, 2012). "Padmore/Kashkashian/De Guise-Langlois/Biss – review". The Guardian. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  30. ^ Dobrin, Peter (November 1, 2010). "Curtis Institute Names Jonathan Biss to Faculty". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  31. ^ Oestreich, James (August 23, 2013). "Hey, Ludwig, There's an App for You". The New York Times. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  32. ^ Isacoff, Stuart (August 28, 2013). "Saving Classical Music: An App for That?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  33. ^ Bora, Madhusmita (September 3, 2013). "A piano class for 32,000 students began today". Quartz. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  34. ^ Hewett, Ivan (January 5, 2012). "Jonathan Biss: My mission to spread the word about Beethoven". The Telegraph. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  35. ^ a b "Recording all of Beethoven's Sonatas". Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  36. ^ Terauds, John (June 5, 2012). "Interview: The steady, thoughtful rise of American pianist Jonathan Biss". Musical Toronto. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  37. ^ Weininger, David (March 21, 2013). "Jonathan Biss explores Schumann at Jordan Hall". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  38. ^ Biss, Jonathan (October 1, 2012). "Private Music". Slate. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  39. ^ Guerrieri, Matthew (March 25, 2013). "Jonathan Biss reveals Schumann's influence". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  40. ^ a b Maddocks, Fiona (October 6, 2012). "Schumann & Dvorák: Piano Quintets – review". The Guardian. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  41. ^ Wright, David (April 4, 2014). "Bernard Rands' witty concerto charms in BSO's world premiere". Boston Classical Review. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  42. ^ "Announcing our 2015–16 season". The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  43. ^ "Coda". Amazon. Amazon Kindle Single. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  44. ^ Robin, William. "Beethoven Again". The New Yorker. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  45. ^ Onyx discography for Jonathan Biss Biss
  46. ^ " - The Classical Music Network".
  47. ^ "Mozart: Piano Concertos No 21 & 22 / Jonathan Biss - Emi Classics: EMI-17270 - Buy from ArkivMusic".
  48. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-03-03. Retrieved 2010-05-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  49. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-01-05. Retrieved 2009-03-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

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