Campus News

Pianist Biss visits UB for an evening of Brahms, Schumann and conversation

Pianist Jonathan Biss visit UB on Feb. 7. Photo: Benjamin Ealovega

By PHILIP E. REHARD

Published January 31, 2017

World-renowned pianist Jonathan Biss will perform a program that delves in the complexity and intrigue of some of the later works of Schumann, Chopin and Brahms in a Feb. 7 concert at UB.

The concert, part of the Slee/Visiting Artist Series, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall, North Campus.

The program is among Biss’ “Late Style” offerings exploring the stylistic changes typical of composers as they approached the end of their lives.

Immediately following the concert, UB musicology professor James Currie will join Biss for a discussion of the topic.

Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for UB faculty/staff/alumni, seniors and non-UB students. UB students are admitted free with ID. Tickets may be purchased in person at the Center for the Arts box office, online at Tickets.com or one hour before concert time at the Slee Hall box office.

Biss is a performer who extends his deep musical and intellectual curiosity from the keyboard to classical music lovers in the concert hall and beyond. In addition to his performance schedule, the 34-year-old American has spent eight summers at the Marlboro Music Festival, and has written extensively for prestigious media outlets about his own relationships with the composers with whom he shares a stage.

A faculty member since 2010 at his alma mater, the Curtis Institute of Music, Biss taught the school’s first massive open online course (MOOC) — “Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas” — in 2013. The course was relaunched in January 2015 on Coursera in a new format, allowing students to watch all the video lessons at once or progress at their own pace. The second part of the course — on additional Beethoven sonatas — launched in spring 2015.

.Biss is in the midst of a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas, the fourth volume of which was released in January 2015. His Amazon Kindle Single, “Beethoven’s Shadow,” was the first-ever single written by a classical musician. It spent many weeks on the Kindle Singles bestseller list opposite works by major commercial fiction writers, and was the top music title in the Kindle Store for months. 

Biss also has been involved in “Schumann: Under the Influence, a 30-concert exploration of Schumann’s role in musical history in which Biss and several hand-picked collaborators performed the composer’s work in juxtaposition with the music of Purcell, Beethoven, Schubert, Berg, Janacek and Timo Andres. As part of the project, Biss recorded Schumann and Dvořák piano quintets with the Elias String Quartet and wrote an Amazon Kindle Single on Schumann, “A Pianist Under the Influence.”

Among the numerous honors Biss has received are the Leonard Bernstein Award presented at the 2005 Schleswig-Holstein Festival, 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, the 2003 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award and the 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award.