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Jonathan Biss

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NEWS
March 8, 2013 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
A lot of pianists play Schumann while dreaming of other composers. What Jonathan Biss knows, however, and what he put into practice Wednesday night at the Perelman Theater, is the idea that Schumann is like no one else. To emphasize the topographical similarities to Schubert or Beethoven would be to round off Schumann's angular rhythms or not heed the slippery beauty of his harmonic oddities. Schumann is not Liszt with a little rose water sprinkled on top. The composer's Davidsbündlertänze were played earlier this season in another Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert, and yet Biss' way with it would not have worn out its welcome if he had played it twice more.
ENTERTAINMENT
June 19, 2004 | By Peter Dobrin INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
Lest anyone think that the Curtis Institute of Music is punching out cookie-cutter pianists, each one under the influence of the same stylistic dogma, we present to you Exhibit B: Jonathan Biss. The 23-year-old American pianist, a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music whose career seems aimed at something major, made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut Thursday night in the first of the orchestra's "Absolutely Mozart" concerts. He is a striking contrast to Exhibit A, a showman named Lang Lang who also studied at Curtis (though with a different teacher)
NEWS
March 2, 2006 | By Peter Dobrin INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
Picture yourself in the parlor of an old house. On one wall is Starry Night. On another is a disturbing piece of abstract expressionism. Over the sofa hangs a honky-tonk scene painted on black velvet. Somewhere off in another room someone is playing a dreamy waltz, playing very softly, maybe a popular song from the early 20th century. And then these gentle sounds are interrupted by rumbling bass notes right out of Beethoven. Picture all this and you have a pretty good idea of the first few minutes of Lewis Spratlan's Wonderer, a 2005 piano work given its local premiere Tuesday night at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater by pianist Jonathan Biss.
NEWS
January 31, 2008 | By Lesley Valdes FOR THE INQUIRER
Elgar began his Piano Quintet in A minor (Op. 84) in 1918, only a year after Bartok composed his Second String Quartet, and they are worlds apart. The Mendelssohn Quartet, with guest Jonathan Biss, performed both Tuesday night at the Perelman Theater and, even separated by an intermission, the clash stayed in the ears. Elgar's chamber piece doesn't sound like the sentimental-to-stoic Elgar we know and love; it's a throwback to old-style romanticism. Some of it is Schumann, hefty octaves and flourishes, sometimes it does a dance suggesting, gasp, an English tango.
ENTERTAINMENT
January 13, 2007 | By David Patrick Stearns INQUIRER MUSIC CRITIC
With so much Shostakovich flying around concert halls lately, champions of this great but tortured composer have earned a rest in the wake of his 100th-birthday year in 2006. But not James Conlon, that frequent Philadelphia Orchestra guest conductor who programmed on Thursday his own suite drawn from Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. One of the composer's greatest works, Lady Macbeth never recovered from its suppression by Stalin in the 1930s, which makes the suite a stopgap until the work takes a more central place in the opera repertoire.
ENTERTAINMENT
April 16, 2013 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
Often lost amid all the exactitude issuing from conservatories today is the reason we make music in the first place. It's not about being able to play all the notes or play them in tune. Interpretation has to mean something if it is to be worth the trouble, especially since the trouble is considerable. How fortunate, then, must be the students of Miriam Fried, the violin pedagogue who teaches at the New England Conservatory. On Sunday night, for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, she came to the Perelman Theater with one of her progeny - in fact, her prime progeny, pianist Jonathan Biss, who happens to be her son. Whatever their offstage dynamics may be, in terms of musical substance it was a performance of equals - if very different ones.
NEWS
April 28, 2013 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Whether they're expecting it or not, the fun-seeking denizens of Macau have some potentially great Brahms coming their way, to judge from Thursday's unofficial preview concert of the Philadelphia Orchestra's tour of China next month. Donald Runnicles is the guest conductor, and if you've heard that he has evolved from a solid musician to a profound one of late, his Brahms Symphony No. 2 at the Kimmel Center was evidence of that. So fluidly and organically written is Brahms' Second that one seldom hears a truly fresh performance of the piece, which evolves so effortlessly from its opening three-note motif that the piece seems to play itself.
NEWS
November 2, 2010 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
Jonathan Biss, the young concert pianist with a substantial international career, is taking his first faculty position: at the Curtis Institute of Music, his alma mater. Biss, 30, based in New York, will join the Curtis roster next fall. "I'm starting right at the top," Biss said Monday from his Georgia stop on a U.S. tour with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. "For the last five or six years I've been coming to Curtis about once a year to do master classes, but I've not had a student in my charge - so that's going to be a new experience.
NEWS
March 14, 2014 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
There's something intoxicating about the Elias String Quartet. It was no mystery that the group was able to cast a spell Tuesday night in a newish Sally Beamish work, the String Quartet No. 3 , with those spiritual Gaelic atmospherics. But for its Philadelphia Chamber Music Society visit, the Elias brought Haydn, personalizing the F major, Op. 77, No. 2 quartet to the point of instantly rendering every other performance in the listener's memory as but a pale stab. The third movement "Andante" was a landmark statement, intensely absorbing, exquisitely considered - a piece in itself, really.
NEWS
February 22, 2013 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
Catching the entrepreneurial social-media wave, the Curtis Institute of Music says it will offer two free online courses through Coursera - one on Beethoven piano sonatas, the other a broad survey of Western music - that will open the school beyond its narrow specialization to the general music-appreciation student. Curtis is one of 29 schools announced Thursday as new affiliates of Silicon Valley-based Coursera, the massive open online course (MOOC) platform that, despite having debuted less than a year ago, now claims about 1.45 million course enrollments per month.
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ARTICLES BY DATE
NEWS
January 25, 2015 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
Like a half-remembered dream, the opening of Beethoven's Opus 101 Piano Sonata in A Major arrives in bits and pieces. It seemed all the more like something emerging from the mists in pianist Jonathan Biss' carefully constructed Thursday night Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital at the Kimmel. As the last piece on the program, the Beethoven looked back on everything that came before it. The incredible economy of the first movement was as concise as Schoenberg's Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke, Op. 19 , played earlier.
NEWS
March 14, 2014 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
There's something intoxicating about the Elias String Quartet. It was no mystery that the group was able to cast a spell Tuesday night in a newish Sally Beamish work, the String Quartet No. 3 , with those spiritual Gaelic atmospherics. But for its Philadelphia Chamber Music Society visit, the Elias brought Haydn, personalizing the F major, Op. 77, No. 2 quartet to the point of instantly rendering every other performance in the listener's memory as but a pale stab. The third movement "Andante" was a landmark statement, intensely absorbing, exquisitely considered - a piece in itself, really.
NEWS
March 10, 2014 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
The online Beethoven course given by pianist and Curtis Institute professor Jonathan Biss last fall was remarkable for all the things it wasn't. In an age of impatience and distraction, it was a slow, deep immersion. Biss currently is recording all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas, and, despite the course's golden opportunity for marketing synergy, he barely mentioned his own recordings, or his 18,000-word Kindle Single on the subject. And in a medium that measures value through the distorting lens of hits and traffic, Biss managed to attract quite a bit of attention for the project, with lengthy coverage in the New Yorker and Gramophone.
ENTERTAINMENT
January 9, 2014 | The Inquirer Staff
Well, of course he did! If you were Tommy Chong of the famously stoned comic duo Cheech and Chong , where would you go, like, right now?? Correct! Tommy showed up Tuesday . . . wait for it . . . at a pot-ecary in Colorado, to get blasted legally and enjoy his moment of nonparanoia. Many people lined up to meet this hero of the hemp. He hilariously tweeted: "Just finished my 7th J and boy is my mouth dry. This legalization is tough on n old stoner. " He was quoted as saying the United States had won the war on drugs, and called this "one small stagger for a stoner and one giant leap for stonerkind.
NEWS
April 28, 2013 | By David Patrick Stearns, Inquirer Music Critic
Whether they're expecting it or not, the fun-seeking denizens of Macau have some potentially great Brahms coming their way, to judge from Thursday's unofficial preview concert of the Philadelphia Orchestra's tour of China next month. Donald Runnicles is the guest conductor, and if you've heard that he has evolved from a solid musician to a profound one of late, his Brahms Symphony No. 2 at the Kimmel Center was evidence of that. So fluidly and organically written is Brahms' Second that one seldom hears a truly fresh performance of the piece, which evolves so effortlessly from its opening three-note motif that the piece seems to play itself.
ENTERTAINMENT
April 16, 2013 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
Often lost amid all the exactitude issuing from conservatories today is the reason we make music in the first place. It's not about being able to play all the notes or play them in tune. Interpretation has to mean something if it is to be worth the trouble, especially since the trouble is considerable. How fortunate, then, must be the students of Miriam Fried, the violin pedagogue who teaches at the New England Conservatory. On Sunday night, for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, she came to the Perelman Theater with one of her progeny - in fact, her prime progeny, pianist Jonathan Biss, who happens to be her son. Whatever their offstage dynamics may be, in terms of musical substance it was a performance of equals - if very different ones.
NEWS
March 8, 2013 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
A lot of pianists play Schumann while dreaming of other composers. What Jonathan Biss knows, however, and what he put into practice Wednesday night at the Perelman Theater, is the idea that Schumann is like no one else. To emphasize the topographical similarities to Schubert or Beethoven would be to round off Schumann's angular rhythms or not heed the slippery beauty of his harmonic oddities. Schumann is not Liszt with a little rose water sprinkled on top. The composer's Davidsbündlertänze were played earlier this season in another Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert, and yet Biss' way with it would not have worn out its welcome if he had played it twice more.
NEWS
February 22, 2013 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
Catching the entrepreneurial social-media wave, the Curtis Institute of Music says it will offer two free online courses through Coursera - one on Beethoven piano sonatas, the other a broad survey of Western music - that will open the school beyond its narrow specialization to the general music-appreciation student. Curtis is one of 29 schools announced Thursday as new affiliates of Silicon Valley-based Coursera, the massive open online course (MOOC) platform that, despite having debuted less than a year ago, now claims about 1.45 million course enrollments per month.
ENTERTAINMENT
March 26, 2012
Sunday Fiction and Frenchmen In Donald Margulies' delightful Shipwrecked! An Entertainment - The Amazing Adventure of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself) , a traveler arrives in London with a story of surviving three decades lost in the wilds of Australia (maybe). The show goes on at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday at People's Light and Theatre , 39 Conestoga Rd., Malvern, and continues with performances on a varied schedule through April 15. Tickets are $35. Call 610-644-3500.
NEWS
January 27, 2011 | By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic
A fleet, stealthy entrance. Then thunder. An unexpected shiver gives way to a warm gust. Salvation? No. Back into the abyss. Beethoven is the author of that emotional schematic - only the first two eventful minutes of his Piano Sonata in F minor (Op. 57), the "Appassionata. " But Jonathan Biss intensified it to a remarkable degree, giving him total ownership of the emotional centerpiece of his Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital at the Perelman Theater Tuesday night. His concert - the Chamber Music Society's 1,000th since its founding 25 seasons ago - was thrilling, which was comforting in more ways than one. Biss, 30, has a career shifting into gear with commercial recordings, high-prestige appearances, and a recent appointment to the faculty of his alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music.
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