Jagged edges and supreme peace: Pianist Jonathan Biss with and without the Philadelphia Orchestra

Jonathan Biss
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Thursday night at the Philadelphia Orchestra, the most powerful thing was the quietest. It actually didn’t involve the orchestra at all. Pianist Jonathan Biss had just played the Schumann Piano Concerto with the orchestra, and as a solo encore he chose another sliver of Schumann.

It was the last movement of the Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood), and Biss played it with such a sense of peace and elongated time that Verizon Hall suddenly seemed like the answer to a topsy-turvy existence.

On the page, this little Schumann piece doesn’t give up its secrets on first reading or the fiftieth — the technique required is so simple a child could play it — but Biss found in it something deeply stirring. He layered a sense of truth and sincerity onto a string of notes so profoundly felt that it changed what we can expect from the world around us. Or should.

The piece’s title: “The Poet Speaks.”

This is exactly why we come to artists. The concert was to have been shaped by another personality, that of Myung-Whun Chung, the South Korean conductor who last led the orchestra in 1996. But visa hurdles kept him from visiting, the orchestra announced 10 days ago.

Other, more familiar personalities stepped in, with Kensho Watanabe conducting the Friday afternoon concert and Yannick Nézet-Séguin taking Thursday and Saturday.
Read the full review here