Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

Jonathan Biss


Twenty-eight-year-old American pianist Jonathan Biss has already proved himself an accomplished and exceptional musician with a flourishing international reputation through his orchestral, recital and chamber music performances in North America and Europe, and through his EMI Classics recordings. Noted for his prodigious technique, intriguing programs, artistic maturity and versatility, Biss performs a diverse repertoire ranging from Mozart and Beethoven through the Romantics to Janáček and Schoenberg, as well as works by contemporary composers, including commissions from Leon Kirchner and Lewis Spratlan.

Since he made his New York Philharmonic debut in 2001, Jonathan Biss has appeared with the foremost orchestras of the United States and Europe. He is a frequent performer at leading international music festivals and gives recitals in major music capitals both here and abroad.

This season, Biss debuts with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Colorado Symphony, the Detroit Symphony and the Memphis Symphony, and makes return engagements with the Indianapolis, National, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh symphony orchestras; The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in its Schumann/ Mendelssohn Festival in May 2009. Following the release of his EMI Classics recording of Mozart Piano Concertos 21 and 22 with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, he joined Orpheus at Carnegie Hall in December and played both concertos in a February tour with the orchestra in nine European cities in Italy, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and Slovenia.

Biss also has made his debut with six European orchestras this season—the Bilbao Orkestra Sinfonikoa, the NDR Hamburg, the Northern Sinfonia, Philharmonia Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall and in a tour of four Spanish cities—Pamplona, Zaragoza, Barcelona and Castellon. In July 2009 he makes his NHK Orchestra debut with a tour of three Japanese cities—Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuyama—followed in August 2009 by his Melbourne Symphony debut. His solo appearances in Europe include recitals in Gothenburg, Bilbao, London’s Wigmore Hall and his first performance at the Châtelet in Paris. In the US, he gives recitals in New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco, as well as several duo recitals with violinist Miriam Fried. He recently joined pianists Leon Fleisher, Yefim Bronfman and Katherine Jacobson in three concerts in New York, Boston and Baltimore in a program of solo and piano-four works celebrating the 80th birthday of Fleisher, with whom Biss studied at The Curtis Institute of Music.

Among his orchestral appearances last season were debuts with five North American orchestras, namely, The Cleveland Orchestra; the Dallas, Kansas City, San Diego, and Toronto symphonies; as many European orchestras—Danish Radio, Swedish Chamber and City of Birmingham Orchestras and the Bamberg and BBC Philharmonics—as well as his Tokyo Symphony debut. He toured Austria with the Camerata Salzburg conducted by Sir Roger Norrington and Germany with the Academy of St. Martin the Fields under Sir Neville Marriner. He played almost a dozen recitals in the US, Europe and Japan, as well as several chamber performances and duo concerts with violinist Miriam Fried and pianist Richard Goode.

An enthusiastic chamber musician, Biss has performed with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, is a frequent participant at the Marlboro Music Festival, and has toured with “Musicians from Marlboro” on several occasions. He frequently collaborates with such chamber ensembles as the Borromeo and Mendelssohn quartets. This past summer he joined Midori and cellist Johannes Moser in a two-week tour of Bavaria, London, Harrogate, Slovenia, Holland, Copenhagen and Menorca.

In April 2006 EMI Classics signed Biss to a two-year exclusive contract. His newest album for EMI is Mozart Piano Concertos 21 and 22 with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra recorded in a live performance at Queens College in New York. His last EMI Classics disc is an Edison Award-winning recital of Beethoven Piano Sonatas, Opp. 13, 28, 90 and 109. About the CD, Classic fm magazine remarked “Biss has the rare ability to make you sit up and take notice as if you were hearing a well-known piece for the very first time.” His previous recordings were an all-Schumann recital consisting of the Fantasie in C, Op. 17; Arabeske in C, Op. 18 and Kreisleriana, Op. 16, which was recognized with a Diapason d’Or de l’année award, and a 2004 recording on EMI’s Debut series of works by Beethoven and Schumann.

Jonathan Biss made his New York recital debut at the 92nd Street Y’s Tisch Center for the Arts in 2000 and his New York Philharmonic debut under Kurt Masur that same season. Among the many conductors with whom he has worked are Marin Alsop, Daniel Barenboim, Herbert Blomstedt, James Conlon, Charles Dutoit, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Sir Neville Marriner, Michael Tilson Thomas and Pinchas Zukerman.
Jonathan Biss represents the third generation in a family of professional musicians that includes his grandmother Raya Garbousova, one of the first well-known female cellists (for whom Samuel Barber composed his Cello Concerto), as well as his parents, violinist Miriam Fried and violist/violinist Paul Biss. Growing up surrounded by music, Biss began his piano studies at age six and his first musical collaborations were with his mother and father. Biss studied at Indiana University with Evelyne Brancart and at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Leon Fleisher.

Named the winner of the Leonard Bernstein Award at the 2005 Schleswig-Holstein Festival, Jonathan Biss has won numerous other awards, including the 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award, Wolf Trap’s Shouse Debut Artist Award, the Andrew Wolf Memorial Chamber Music Award, Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant and the 2003 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award. He was an artist-in-residence on American Public Media’s Performance Today, was the first American chosen to participate in the BBC’s New Generation Artist program and was featured on the CBS Kennedy Center Honors national telecast tribute to honoree Leon Fleisher.

Jonathan Biss

photo Jimmy Katz