Jonathan Biss: Beethoven - Piano Sonatas Vol. 1

A stand-out performance from the nimble-fingered Jonathan Biss, in his first installment of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas.

Composer: Beethoven
Repertoire: Piano Sonatas: Nos. 5, 11, 12 and 26, ‘Les Adieux’

Artist: Jonathan Biss
Rating: 4/5

Genre: Instrumental

Label: Onyx 4089

The Music: Rather than ploughing through the 32 Beethoven sonatas in chronological order, Jonathan Biss has picked four sonatas to launch his set that includes three distinctly un-obvious works. Alongside the celebrated ‘Les Adieux’, he plays three earlier sonatas that share unfailing dynamism, originality and revolutionary structure.

The Performance: Biss, a young American pianist with an exceptional musical pedigree, intense intelligence and a fantastic sense of humour, has all the ingredients he needs to become one of today’s great Beethovenians. This disc proves he’s well on the way. He teases out the brilliant and quirky heart of the sonatas; he is affectionate in the reflective slow movements, and witty and light-fingered in the virtuoso sky-rockets. He takes nothing for granted: in his hands Beethoven is no pompous grand master but an energetic radical, bursting at the seams with fresh ideas. The recording is rather closely recorded, though, so sometimes pedal noises come through, plus rather a lot of breathing. 

The Verdict: An exciting and sophisticated start to what promises to be a great Beethoven cycle. Hopefully the sound recording issues can be sorted for next time. 

Want More? Hear Biss’ generously romantic and ever-thoughtful interpretations of Schumann’s Fantasie in C, Kreisleriana and Arabeske (EMI Classics, 365 3912).