Beethoven wrote 32 Sonatas between the years 1795 and 1822. Pianist Jonathan Biss is immersing himself in the works and presenting them in a series of recitals spread out over two seasons.
For Biss, the work is not just an exercise in musicianship, but of scholarship, history, and in getting to know the composer in the most intimate way we can — through his music.
“Beethoven himself was a pianist,” Biss explains to City Lights host Lois Reitzes, “therefore he had a tactile relationship with these piece. Unlike the symphonies, which had to be public statements that would be understood and embraced and loved, these were pieces that were written mostly for home consumption, I think the sonatas represent his private thoughts, his most personal feelings, and they show his evolution over those decades in the most extraordinary way.”
“It’s I think one of the most astonishing transformations that any artist has gone through” he says.
In addition to touring the country for these recitals, Biss is also teaching a massive online open course on the music, as well as writing a book on the subject.
This story originally appeared with an audio interview on WABE.org.