On Tuesday, October 13, Wigmore Hall Live releases a new CD by pianist Jonathan Biss of works by Franz Schubert and György Kurtág. Recorded before a live audience at the Wigmore Hall this past May, the album is Mr. Biss’s first on the Wigmore Hall Live label. The recording of Schubert’s Piano Sonatas in C Major, D. 840 (Reliquie) and A Major, D. 959, opens and closes with two selections from Kurtág’s Játékok--Birthday elegy for Judit, for the second finger of her left hand and Hommage à Schubert. Mr. Biss believes that because Kurtág has “such deep roots in the past and is the most sensitive of souls,” Schubert and Kurtág make a very natural pairing.
“It’s very interesting how these kinds of pairings across the centuries work,” said Mr. Biss. “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. “
“For years, the Schubert Sonatas have been objects of fascination and enormous affection for me. Like all of his works, they are filled with small moments of aching beauty and lyricism, but at the same time, they are immense in length, scope, and ambition. Because the proportions of the movements are so huge,” he explains, “there is room in them for moments in which we feel lost, or far afield, and these moments are part of what makes the climaxes feel so justified. Schubert’s imagination is so unique,” Mr. Biss adds, “that you never know what might engage him.”
This Schubert/Kurtág recording follows four CDs Mr. Biss made for EMI Classics, the most recent of which was a recording of Mozart Piano Concertos 21 and 22 with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The others were an all-Beethoven recital, which was recognized with a 2008 Edison Award; an all-Schumann recital, which received a 2007 Diapason d’Or award; and a CD of works by Beethoven and Schumann in EMI’s Debut series. BBC Music Magazine has written that “Biss has all the technique required, yet he unfailingly puts the composer first. Such is the strength and conviction of his playing that the music unfolds with a natural-sounding inevitability.”
Still in his 20’s, Mr. Biss has proved himself an exceptional musician, noted for his prodigious technique, intriguing programs, and artistic maturity, with a flourishing international reputation through his orchestral, recital, and chamber music performances in North America, Europe, and Asia. Since he made his New York Philharmonic debut in 2001, he has appeared with the foremost orchestras of the United States and Europe and is a frequent performer at leading international music festivals.
He represents the third generation in a family of professional musicians that includes his grandmother cellist Raya Garbousova and his parents, violinist Miriam Fried and violist/violinist Paul Biss. Mr. Biss began his piano studies at age six, and his first musical collaborations were with his mother and father. He studied at Indiana University with Evelyne Brancart and at The Curtis Institute of Music with Leon Fleisher. Among his numerous awards are the Leonard Bernstein Award, Wolf Trap’s Shouse Debut Artist Award, the Andrew Wolf Memorial Chamber Music Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and the 2003 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award. He was the first American to participate in the BBC’s New Generation Artist program.