Beethoven’s masterful “Emperor” Concerto is a monument of musical architecture, driven forward with beautiful flourishes and cascades. Esteemed Curtis piano faculty Jonathan Biss was the soloist, joined by conductor Osmo Vänskä. Also on the program was a new work by Curtis alumna Gabriella Smith. The program soared to a rousing conclusion with Sibelius’s majestic Symphony No. 2.
“Biss loomed large at the keyboard Friday night in ‘The Emperor,’ Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5. There is a clarity and lack of fussiness in his approach to this piece, which has had its share of overly romantic treatments over the years. He was expressive and heroic, but in all the right places, and not excessively so.”
“The Curtis Symphony Orchestra is a young classical ensemble, uniquely gifted and well-trained, advancing in experience every day. Add a renowned conductor like Vänskä and a world-class pianist like Biss and you have an extraordinary concert experience. Those who braved the rainy, stormy night were richly rewarded.”
“The restless Vivacissimo [of Sibelius’s Symphony No. 2] then gave way to the famous, majestic final movement - one of the great melodies of all - played magnificently by the orchestra. It was a thrilling performance, greeted warmly the audience.”
Several students added to their touring activities by serving as Instagram correspondents. Their behind-the-scenes photos and commentary on the joys and challenges of being a traveling musician brought the tour to life for hundreds of eager fans.
Osmo Vänskä, music director of the Minnesota Orchestra for 15 years, is recognized for his compelling interpretations of repertoire from all ages. He has led the orchestra on five major European tours, performing at festivals and venues such as the BBC Proms, Edinburgh Festival, Barbican Hall, Royal Concertgebouw, Berlin Philharmonie, Tivoli Copenhagen, and Vienna’s Musikverein. In 2015, he led the orchestra on a historic visit to Cuba after the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. In 2018 he returned with the orchestra to the BBC Proms before embarking on a five-city tour to South Africa—the first by an American orchestra. He has made 17 recordings with the Minnesota Orchestra, including complete cycles of the Beethoven and Sibelius symphony cycles.
Much in demand as a guest conductor, in North America Mr. Vänskä has appeared with the Los Angeles and New York philharmonics; the Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras; and the Boston, Chicago, National, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, and New World symphony orchestras. Internationally he has led the Berlin, Czech, Helsinki, Israel, Netherlands Radio, Seoul, Hong Kong, London, and Vienna philharmonics; the BBC, Berlin, London, and Vienna symphony orchestras; L’Orchestre de Paris; and the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras. In 2017 he led the Curtis Symphony Orchestra on a tour of Europe, with stops in Berlin, Dresden, London, Salzburg, and Vienna, among other venues. In 2020 he tours the U.S. with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra.
Formerly principal conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and music director of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Vänskä holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Glasgow and Minnesota and in 2005 was named Musical America’s Conductor of the Year. His other honors include the 2010 Ditson Award from Columbia University, the 2013 Annual Award from the German Record Critics’ Association, a Royal Philharmonic Society Award, and the Finlandia Foundation’s Arts and Letters award.
Jonathan Biss is a world-renowned pianist who continues to expand his reputation as a teacher and musical thinker. In 2013 he created the first massive open online course (MOOC) offered by a classical music conservatory, Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, which has reached more than 150,000 people in 185 countries; the most recent set of lectures is set for release in September 2019. A prolific writer, he is the author of a best-selling e-book, Beethoven’s Shadow (Rosetta Books, 2011).
Mr. Biss has appeared as soloist with the world’s foremost orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic; the Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Philharmonia, orchestras; the Boston, Chicago, Dallas, London, NHK, and Swedish Radio symphonies; and the Budapest Festival, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Royal Concertgebouw, and Saint Paul Chamber orchestras. He has given recitals in such renowned venues as Carnegie Hall, the Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Théâtre du Châtelet, and the Berliner Philharmonie.
An enthusiastic chamber musician, Mr. Biss was named co-artistic director of the Marlboro Music Festival in 2018, alongside Mitsuko Uchida. He has collaborated with many of today’s finest players, such as Ms. Uchida, Richard Goode, Midori, Mark Padmore, the Elias String Quartet, and Miriam Fried.
Mr. Biss is currently recording the complete Beethoven piano sonatas for Onyx Classics, and previously made four CDs for EMI Classics, as well as one for Wigmore Hall Live. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Leonard Bernstein Award (2005), Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, and the 2003 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award, and the 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award.
Mr. Biss studied at Indiana University with Evelyne Brancart and at the Curtis Institute of Music with Leon Fleisher. He joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in 2011, where he holds the Neubauer Family Chair in Piano Studies.
Acclaimed for its “otherworldly ensemble and professional level of sophistication” (New York Times), the Curtis Symphony Orchestra offers a dynamic showcase of tomorrow’s exceptional young talent. Each year the 100 extraordinary musicians of the orchestra work with internationally renowned conductors, including Osmo Vänskä, Vladimir Jurowski, Marin Alsop, Simon Rattle, Robert Spano, and Yannick Nézet Séguin, who also mentors the early-career conductors who hold Rita E. Hauser Conducting Fellowships. This professional training has enabled Curtis alumni to assume prominent positions in America’s leading orchestras, as well as esteemed orchestral, opera, and chamber ensembles around the world.
|SMITH||f(x) = sin²x –1/x|
|BEETHOVEN||Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 (“Emperor”)|
|SIBELIUS||Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43|
Thursday, January 30 at 8 p.m.
Immaculata University, Alumnae Hall
Friday, January 31 at 8 p.m.
Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center
Saturday, February 1 at 4 p.m.
Lehigh University, Zoellner Arts Center
Presented by Zoellner Arts Center
Monday, February 3 at 7:30 p.m.
University of Georgia, Performing Arts Center, Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall
Presented by UGA Presents
Wednesday, February 5 at 7:30 p.m.
Virginia Tech, Moss Arts Center, Fife Theatre
Presented by the Moss Arts Center
Thursday, February 6 at 8 p.m.
Duke University, Baldwin Auditorium
Presented by Duke Performances
New York, N.Y.
Saturday, February 8 at 8 p.m.
Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Presented by the Curtis Institute of Music