Tuesday 27 June 2023

A rarity of piano pleasure! Jonathan Biss and Mitsuko Uchida performing Schubert’s four-hand music in London.

Mitsuke Uchida & Jonathan Biss
Mitsuko Uchida & Jonathan Biss

The outstanding American pianist Jonathan Biss is touring Europe this summer with the equally outstanding Japanese-British pianist Mitsuko Uchida stopping off in London for a couple of concerts at the Wigmore Hall on Friday 8 September and Sunday 10 September following on from appearances at San Sebastian, Salzburg, Gstaad and Dublin. They’ll be offering a special four-hands programme devoted to the works of Schubert comprising Lebensstürme: Allegro in A minor D.947, March in E flat minor D819/5, Rondo in A major D.951, Divertissement à la hongroise D.818. 

"Schubert’s four-hand music is a treasure trove and largely neglected" emphasised Biss. "These works have every quality that makes Schubert’s music so uniquely affecting - the lyricism and tenderness, the loneliness and terror. But they require two pianists with a deep attunement to one another. Therefore, when I play with Mitsuko, I feel that our ears are pointed towards the same things and that the same events in the music speak to us most deeply. She has been an essential presence in my life for 25 years - first as a mentor, then as a close friend and colleague and always a source of inspiration."

Known for his international concert activities, Biss is also known for his versatility as an artist and musician. Besides travelling round the world performing he also enjoys writing about his concert repertoire, too, and has already published four audio and e-books including UNQUIET: My Life with Beethoven.

Since 2018, Biss has been joint artistic director of the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont where he has spent 15 enjoyable summers. Founded in 1951, Marlboro’s acclaimed for developing the artistry and enriching the lives of generations of musical leaders and for initiating the explosion of interest in chamber music not just in America but abroad as well.

His close collaboration and connection with Uchida (who has been joint artistic director of Marlboro since 2013) lines up with this sentiment. Every summer musicians of all ages spend up to seven weeks at the festival with the exchange of ideas and the intensive rehearsal of a wide variety of chamber-music works and perform them in weekend concerts.

Without a shadow of doubt, Biss is a wonderful, charismatic and enterprising pianist who channels his deep musical curiosity into performances and projects in the concert hall and beyond. In addition to performing with today’s leading orchestras, he continues to expand his reputation as a teacher, musical thinker and one of the great Beethoven interpreters of our time.  

In addition, Biss is passionate about new music and has commissioned concertos from Sally Beamish, Timo Andres, Caroline Shaw, Salvatore Sciarrino and Brett Dean for his Beethoven/5 project for which he asked each composer to write in response to one of Beethoven’s five piano concertos.  

Another commissioning project will launch next year with new solo piano works from Alvin Singleton, Tyshawn Sorey and Tyson Davies. Jonathan also led a massive open online course via Coursera, reaching an international audience of over 150,000.  

During this and the next season, Biss gives solo recitals in cities including Cologne, New York, Philadelphia, Milan, Singapore, Jerusalem, San Francisco, Boston and Sydney. Recently, he performed Beethoven trios with Midori and cellist Antoine Lederlin in Cologne, Hamburg, London and Tokyo and appeared as soloist with the Atlanta Symphony and Concerto Budapest as well as with the New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Performances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre de Chambre Paris and St Louis Symphony Orchestra are also in the pipeline.

Coinciding with the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020, Biss concluded over a decade-long immersion in the composer’s music which included concert series, recordings, writings, lectures and commissions of Beethoven-inspired works. Through the course of his Beethoven study, Biss recorded the composer’s complete piano sonatas and offered insights to all the composer’s 32 landmark works. Orchid Classics released the nine-disc sonata cycle box set in March 2020. And in the same month, Biss performed Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas in a virtual recital for an online audience of more than 280,000 people. This was followed by a daily video series of selections from the Beethoven sonatas presented via Biss’ Facebook page over the course of several weeks.

More information can be sourced on jonathanbiss.com and on his YouTube channel. See Wigmore Hall's website for details of Jonathan Biss and Mitsuko Uchida's concerts.

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