Jonathan Biss: Beyond the Keyboard

By Erik Petersons on February 22, 2013

Jonathan Biss is a busy man.  If it wasn't already enough to hold a teaching post at Curtis Institute and perform regularly around the world, Jonathan is making his mark in a number of creative ways.  If you keep an eye on his website, you'll find a number of new ventures in which he is taking part.  Here are just a few of these projects that extend far beyond the stage and physical classroom.

In news that was just announced yesterday, Jonathan will teach the first course in a new partnership between Curtis and Coursera, a leading provider of “massive online open courses” (MOOCs).  He will be offering a classical-music-performance course focused on Beethoven's piano sonatas, available to the worldwide online community.  Biss will give video lectures, and students will engage in interactive homework assignments and peer review workshops.

Additionally, Jonathan continues to produce a series of Kindle e-books.  His first, back in 2011, was entitled "Beethoven's Shadow"–an inquiry into the creative processes from the vantage point of the composer and the performer.  His second, just released at the end of 2012, reflects on his life-long, intense, multi-layered relationship with Schumann.  In "A Pianist Under the Influence," Jonathan writes, "Most of what I know about myself, I have learned from playing Schumann."  Both e-books are a great read for anyone interested in the experience of making music from one of the premier pianists of the next generation.  Both have excerpts online here and here.

This past fall, NPR interviewed Jonathan on Performance Today and included the audio of him playing Schumann at the NPR studio.  The three-day series included the following:

Jonathan also started a decade-long project of recording all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas.  The first CD of the project with four sonatas was released by Onyx Classics early in 2012.  His second–including Sonatas 4, 14 and 24 as well as the Fantasy in G Minor, Op. 77–comes out on March 12.

But performing is still the centerpiece of Jonathan's career.  Having just returned from a ten-concert tour in Europe, he will begin a three month US tour, starting with none other than a Perelman Theater recital on Wednesday, March 6th at 8 pm.  He'll begin with Schumann's Fantasiestí¼cke, Op. 12, interspersed with selections from Janácek’s On the Overgrown Path.  Then, after a Minuet and Adagio by Mozart, he'll circle back around to finish with Schumann's Davidsbí¼ndlertänze, Op. 6.  If you are attending this nearly sold-out concert, make sure to come early for a pre-concert lecture with David Dubal at 6:45 pm.