Mason Bates
Musical America

"Mason Bates, 40, is one of the most-performed living American composers," writes Washington Post music critic Anne Midgette, "precisely because he gives people something to like."  ... »

Symphony's big bang

Jeremy Denk
The Bay Area Reporter

It is early in the San Francisco Symphony's new season, but Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas has already covered a lot of ground. With engaging appearances by strong guest artists and virtuosic playing by the orchestra, September concerts have set an exciting pace. Giving Hector Berlioz his place in the "Three Bs" of music (well, let's make that four now and counting) and adding Bartok and Bernstein to the list, MTT is reminding us how thrilling live performances of the classics can be, and started the season's celebration of Leonard Bernstein's birth centennial with a big bright bang.

Most recently, American pianist (and insightful writer) Jeremy Denk made a very organized and energetic attack on the Steinway at Davies Symphony Hall with a breathtaking and thoughtful interpretation of Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 2. The composer may have intended a cheerful, albeit characteristically moody musical style, but he made daunting demands of the soloist and gave the orchestra (especially the horns) a heavy-duty assignment, too. Successfully moving through the drill of the busy piece with scarcely a hair out of place, the horns were precise and forceful, and Denk amazed the audience with his combination of control and understanding. His encore, from a Mozart Sonata, offered an astute contrast, returning everyone's blood pressure to normal, and cooling the piano down as well. ... »

Jonathan Biss on Schumann, Beethoven and why 'piano is daily bread'

Jonathan Biss
Los Angeles Times

The first time Jonathan Biss asked for piano lessons, he was 4. His musician parents said he was too young, but he kept asking. 
“There was music everywhere when I was growing up,” recalls Biss, who soon enough played piano at home alongside his mother, violinist Miriam Fried, and his father, violist-violinist Paul Biss. “As I got older, it became clear that music would be my profession. I perceived music as a language and a totally natural form of communication.”
 The Philadelphia-based concert pianist, 37, performs Sunday at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. For this edited conversation he spoke by phone about his nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, as well as his bestselling ebook, “Beethoven’s Shadow,” and his popular online music course. ... »