Critical Acclaim for the new Jonathan Biss CD

12.01.08
Jonathan Biss

Critical Acclaim for the new Jonathan Biss CD
Mozart Piano Concertos 21 & 22


The Sunday Times, London
“What Jonathan Biss writes about Mozart in the recording’s booklet is so inspired, so just, that I was biased in his favour before hearing a note. His performance, as soloist and as the director of the excellent Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, in no way disappoints. These are outstanding interpretations, the interplay of soloist and orchestra that of equals in complete sympathy, the contrasting character of the two concertos and the constant changes of mood within each work felt and communicated with delight and impeccable judgment. Biss’s cadenzas, too, are well judged, as is his ornamentation—not imposed on the music, but springing naturally out of it. Interestingly, he hardly decorates the C major’s magical andante at all—which, if not “correct,” seems to me absolutely right.”

The Times, London
“Young, clever, and very nimble, the American Biss is a marvelous Mozart pianist, and the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra play absolutely in synch. In the quixotic games of the Piano Concerto No 21 Biss offers teasing phrasing and filigree magic. The 22nd sounds chunkier, as it should. Recorded in concert, and you can feel the electricity.”

The Daily Telegraph
“The brilliant twenty-something American pianist proclaims his Mozartian credentials in scintillating, beautifully proportioned performances of two of the greatest concertos from 1785 (not 1786, as Biss states in his engaging note). With a limpid, “centred” tone and crystal-clear articulation, Biss views the C major’s opening movement in terms of a comic opera conspiracy, with the dapper orchestra in close collusion.  The famous andante is cool and chaste (some performances uncover more disquiet here), the finale, like that of the E flat, delightfully mischievous. Again, Biss can underestimate the latent passion in No 22’s C minor andante, though the grace and poise of his phrasing,  not least in the hushed coda, are always persuasive.”

Hamburger Abendblatt
"...Jonathan Biss played Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto with sensitivity at the NDR matinee in the Laeiszhalle on Sunday.

...the Leon Fleisher student concentrated on an invariably velvet tone. He achieved this with a subtle touch and generous use of the pedal. The encore "Der Dichter spricht" from Schumann's Kinderszenen was like being immersed in melodiousness and was tailor-made for Biss..."

"...Jonathan Biss is not a typical young lion of the keyboard. His piano playing exudes consummate intelligence rather than vigorous bravado. During the Streiber NDR concert on Saturday, he gave every single note of Ludwig van Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto in B-flat, op. 19, an effervescent legitimacy. No nebulous pedaling veiled the contours of the often lyrically sensitive, at times jauntily humorous solo parts. The spirit of the Enlightenment prevailed here – in every respect.

Kieler Nachrichten
Biss's playing is by no means cool or weak, however. Emotions are precisely measured out in classical guise. The encore is a case in point – Jonathan Biss played Frédéric Chopin's E minor Prelude, op. 28, briskly and transparently, but achieved touching profoundness, precisely through its clear simplicity..."

Pittsburgh Tribune
“Profound are the joys of the new recording of piano concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart performed by Jonathan Biss and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra on a beautifully engineered EMI Classics CD. Biss gave a wonderful performance of one of the concertos on the new disc, No. 22 in E flat major, at Heinz Hall earlier this fall with conductor Marek Janowski and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Nevertheless, the recording is an even higher level performance, because the way Biss leads from the keyboard achieves music making that sounds like chamber music at its best. In both recordings and concerts Biss has shown himself to be an extremely sensitive musician. His Mozart playing and conducting shows this not merely by balancing joyous and sad moments. His exuberance does lift the spirit, and his introspection does catch the listener's breath. But he also finds the right balances in Mozart's distinctive sadness-in-joy and joy-in-sadness. This is a recording for the ages.”

San Francisco Chronicle
“From his first entry in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21, soloist Jonathan Biss lays claim to the listener's undivided attention. Clarity, poise, dramatic undertow, a buoyant elasticity of tempos, acute responsiveness to the orchestra - everything unfolds with a sublime sense of naturalness. Mozart's genius shines through, unclouded by overly polished competence or interpretive caprice. Any recording of these two familiar works runs the risk of violating some ideal standard. Biss leaves his own stamp, notably in his perfectly judged and fluently expressed cadenzas. But in this ideal partnership with the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Mozart always comes first. Nothing demonstrates that more clearly than the understated Andante of the Concerto No. 22, where every musical incident is woven into something murmurous, meditative and altogether complete.”

BBC
“Biss (on modern concert grand rather than any period instrument) has completely and satisfyingly surrendered to the music's moods and emotions, whilst maintaining Mozartian clarity and poise. In the stately K482, clarinets are substituted for oboes, and Biss’s first entrance into this darker orchestral colour has a corresponding graceful elegance. His emotive reading of the mournful, unsettled Andante leaves one in no doubt as to why the first audience demanded an encore. Fantastic stuff.”