A piano recital highlighting the poetic chops of pianist Jonathan Biss

10.25.15
Jonathan Biss
The Washington Post

At first, it sounded as if Jonathan Biss had more technique than poetry in his arsenal. But what he followed up with, a searching, thoughtful exploration of Schoenberg’s “Sechs Kleine Klavierstucke,” Op. 19, revealed not only a poetic mind but a philosophical one as well. These miniatures, Schoenberg’s concise, atonal answer to opulently conservative romanticism, demand close attention to every note, and Biss controlled weight, touch and attack with finesse.

The Schoenberg seemed to unlock Biss’s poetic reserves, because the rest of the program — Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 15 in F, K. 533/498, and Schumann’s romantic fantasy, “Kreisleriana,” Op. 18 — were shaped and colored elegantly. The Mozart, lighthearted and, at times, operatic, reveled in transparency. Its deceptively simply Rondo finale, sometimes wandering off into unexpected keys, sounded crisp under Biss’s light touch, and he found a lovely meditative legato for the Andante.

The Schumann is one of the supreme tests of a pianist’s poetic chops. Mirroring the composer’s mercurial emotional state, light and dark trip over each other’s heels throughout its eight movements. Biss let the music breathe, giving moments of sadness and regret time to linger but urging on the spurts of frenzied energy with sometimes frantic intensity.

Read the rest of the review here