Enlightenment and Treasure Trove

12.01.08
Jonathan Biss
Kieler nachrichten

Jonathan Biss is not a typical young lion at the keyboard. His piano playing displays more playful intelligence than vigorous boasting. Through him, every single tone in Ludwig van Beethoven's Second Piano Concerto B-flat Major op. 19 receives its sparkling eligibility at the Streiber-NDR concert on Saturday. No pedal-fog muffles the outlines of the often lyrically sensitive, occasionally boldly humorous solo parts. The spirit of enlightenment rules - in every sense.

At the same time, Biss' play doesn't seem undercooled or thin blooded. In fact, the emotions are finely dosed in classical vestment. Another beautiful example of this is the encore: Jonathan Biss plays Fréderic Chopin's E Minor Prélude op. 28 speedy and glassy, but gains touching depth exactly from this cleared simplicity.

The NDR Symphony Orchestra lets Biss inspire it to a descriptive and, at the end of the movement also very sensitive, way of playing Beethoven, after a rather flat version of Mozart's "Paris" Symphony D-Major KV 297. But the great hour of the Hamburg Orchestra doesn't strike until after the intermission, for Alexander Zemlinsky's symphonic poem Die Seejungfrau is a true treasure trove of sound color and sound effects. It is especially noteworthy how the teacher and brother-in-law of Arnold Schönberg, who was appreciated much too late, succeeded in perfecting a late-romantic tone painting, which can independently stand next to Mahler, Strauss and Debussy. Andersen's fairy tale finds reverberation here, which fluoresces in such a rich and sensual way as if it were a painting by Gustav Klimt.

Certainly, with the American James Conlon, a conductor who conducts by heart and is a connoisseur of the liquid matter has taken the podium at the Castle of Kiel. Not for nothing did one of the most distinguished CD recordings of this work result from his leadership in Cologne, 1995.

Accordingly, the timing of the interpretation seems successful and natural; the central motive of the little mermaid delicately blossoms throughout all movements from the waves, is periled and finally transfigured. The concertmaster, Roland Greutter, contributes an incandescent violin-solo, the colleagues contribute warmth and refined radiance. Strong applause and bravi for this are more than appropriate.