Jonathan Biss | Bennett-Gordon Hall, Ravinia Festival | Classical | Chicago Reader
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click to enlarge Jonathan Biss

Jonathan Biss

Benjamin Ealovega

When: Thu., Aug. 18, 6 p.m., Sat., Aug. 20, 6 p.m. and Mon., Aug. 22, 6 p.m. 2016
Price: $10
Jonathan Biss is halfway through fulfilling a life-long dream of recording all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. He not only distinguishes himself through his thoughtful playing but is also a gifted writer (Beethoven’s Shadow) and teaches at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his online Coursera class Exploring Beethoven’s Sonatas reaches students in 135 countries. And in a series of concerts at Ravinia, he’ll perform all of them over the course of three years (he told me in a phone interview he regards this as “training wheels” in preparation for performances of the entire cycle in 2019). Each recital, Biss says, is intended to reveal the “maximum breadth of form, language, and character” within the works while highlighting Beethoven’s tremendous transformation, which in his view is “probably greater than any artist, of any discipline.” Tonight, the first of three performances, he’ll begin with Sonata no. 1 in F Minor and end with the majestic no. 21 in C Major, the “Waldstein.” Saturday’s concert includes two other famous sonatas, no. 17 in D Minor, the “Tempest,” and no. 23 in F Minor, the “Appassionata,” which Biss feels “breaks with history in an unbelievable way; its level of violence was never expressed before.” The concluding concert Monday includes no. 14 in C-sharp Minor, the “Moonlight,” famous for its moody first movement, and concludes with no. 29 in E Major, the first of the last three late sonatas. He’ll end this season with the next in line from that remarkable group of compositions.
— Barbara Yaross



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