Fantasy in G minor, Op.77
Sonata in F minor, Op.57 (Appassionata) Schumann
Jonathan Biss (piano)
Recorded in March and April 2003 at Potton Hall, Suffolk
CD No: EMI 5 85894 2 Duration: 66 minutes Reviewed: April 2004
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
In his early twenties, American Jonathan Biss, a Leon Fleisher pupil, has impressed me on all the occasions I have heard him in Beethovens Third and Ravels G major concertos, and in solo works of Beethoven and Leon Kirchner. His first CD, which I presume this is, is admirably placed within EMIs Debut series, In his choice of repertoire for this release, Biss is up against stiff competition, a whole world of recorded pianists in fact. He has no need to fear comparisons.
The Beethoven Fantasy is a fine introduction Biss is alive to the modernism of the piece (the opening pages are quite a shock!) and he vividly characterises the various episodes. This first track also demonstrates the warmth and clarity of the excellent recording.
Davidsbündlertänze is a given a thoughtfully considered, rather reflective account; its a touching, and where necessary, virile rendition, one full of insight, identity and individuality. Biss espouses the musics fragrance and refinement with certainty, but he is not indulgent and sees the bigger picture; this is honed and balanced Schumann-playing embracing fantasy, emotion and structure.
Bisss account of the Appassionata is maybe the acid test here its a piece that has an immediate impact on the listener and is essayed by just about every pianist. Bisss sure projection is charged in a most engaging way; its a linear rendition, the structure is sacrosanct, and he is equally alive to the works elusiveness and electrified progress; some of the fortissimos have a Pollini-like sinew.
What is most satisfying is that you know Biss has really examined and pondered the music before giving a real performance. Having worked-out the finales internal rationale (including observing Beethovens curious request for the development to be repeated) Biss sets the seal on a splendid performance by unleashing the coruscating final bars as something inevitable rather than being tacked-on and suggesting display for its own sake.