Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Media Contacts

Alain Barker
Jacobs School of Music

Linda Cajigas
Jacobs School of Music

Jennifer Piurek
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, June 15, 2009

World-class musician, Bloomington native Jonathan Biss returns for IU Summer Music Festival

WHAT: Special scholarship benefit concert for Summer Piano Academy
WHEN: July 3, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Recital Hall
TICKETS: $20 general and $10 students. The concert is not covered by the Festival Pass. For more ticket information, see or call the Musical Arts Center Box Office at 812-855-7433. The box office is open Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

June 15, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's 2009 Summer Music Festival will include a diverse series of piano recitals highlighted by a July 3 performance by international soloist and chamber musician Jonathan Biss, who was raised in Bloomington and studied with IU Jacobs School of Music professors Karen Taylor and Evelyne Brancart.

The Biss performance, scheduled for 8 p.m. in Recital Hall, will raise scholarship money for the Summer Piano Academy, directed by Taylor. The academy offers serious young pianists (grades 7-12) the opportunity to work with outstanding teachers and acclaimed guest artists in an intensive, varied program.

Biss said he studied with Taylor from the ages of 6-11 and continued his studies with Brancart, chair of the Department of Piano, until he was 16.

"This is my first time coming to IU for a project specifically associated with Karen. It is also my first visit to the Piano Academy since I was a student there, when I was (I believe) 10. Karen was a really ideal teacher for me at the time I studied with her," he said.

"Jonathan is without doubt the most remarkable talent to have come through my studio in my 40-plus years of teaching," said Taylor, who was just 16 when she began teaching students who were often her age or older. "Nowadays, he is often praised by critics for his 'prodigious technique.' But when he was a little boy, performing his first Beethoven sonatas and Chopin waltzes in my piano classes, it wasn't his fast fingers that set him apart from so many other fine young pianists; it was his fervor, imagination and uncanny musical intuition. It was as though music was his mother tongue. From a very early age, he understood and 'spoke' music like a native -- like a budding artist, that is, rather than a 'good student.'"

After leaving Indiana to pursue his international career, Biss continued to visit, sometimes performing with his parents, Paul Biss and Miriam Fried. Both were distinguished members of the string faculty at the Jacobs School, and both studied with the legendary violinist Josef Gingold while they were students at IU. (Paul Biss conducted his retirement concert at IU in April of 2008; Fried currently teaches at New England Conservatory.)

Biss will perform Haydn: Sonata in A flat Major, HobXVI/46; Kurtag: Selections from Jatekok (Games); Beethoven: Sonata in E flat Major, Op. 81a "Les Adieux"; and Schumann: Kreisleriana, Op. 16.

He has played with every major orchestra in the U.S. and most in Europe. During the coming season, he debuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the BBC Symphony. Other highlights include duo performances with pianist Richard Goode in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, recital tours of Europe and the U.S., and chamber music concerts and return engagements with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, Toronto Symphony and the St. Paul Chamber orchestra, among others.

After his Bloomington performance in July, he'll make his first appearance in Korea, followed by orchestral and recital performances in Japan. His festival appearances this summer include Caramoor, Ravinia and his debut in Le Festival de Lanaudiere in Quebec, after which he'll travel to Australia for concerts and recitals in Melbourne and Sydney.

Biss has recorded four critically acclaimed CDs for EMI Classics. His Schumann CD won a Diapason d'Or award, and his Beethoven CD received an Edison Award. In May, he recorded an album of two Schubert Sonatas on the Wigmore Hall Live Label, scheduled for a September release.

The San Francisco Chronicle has written: "Biss' great gift is the gentle soulfulness of his keyboard tone, a sound that arrives with a well-defined center surrounded by a cushiony aura. And that sound, in turn, is deployed with the rhetorical mastery of a great orator."

Karen Taylor

Taylor recalls that when Jonathan Biss was about 9, renowned violinist Josef Gingold showed up, unannounced, at one of her performance classes. Gingold had heard that Jonathan was going to play a pair of Chopin mazurkas and was curious to see how the boy would handle such notoriously difficult-to-interpret pieces. (Gingold had a special fondness for Chopin's mazurkas -- he himself was born in the Polish-Russian border town of Brest-Litolvsk -- and liked to play several of them in transcriptions.)

"He came up to me afterwards, and I could tell he had been blown away," Taylor recalled. "'How can he do that?,' he exclaimed in his famous gravelly voice. 'He plays like a 50-year-old man who has lived all those feelings.' He shook his head in amazement and muttered, half to himself: 'He's an 'old soul.'"

Biss credits Taylor with instilling in him a lifelong love for music. "She has a great breadth of musical knowledge, and probably more important, a truly infectious enthusiasm," Biss said. "I think she was responsible for the very healthy relationship I had with music from the beginning of my studies. I'm sure my continuing passion for music has some of its roots with Karen and her way of teaching."

The other piano recitals of the IU Summer Music Festival will be performed by renowned musicians, all closely associated with the IU Jacobs School of Music and the Summer Piano Academy.

2009 Summer Music Festival Piano Recital Schedule

Hans Boepple: June 27, 8 p.m. Recital Hall | FREE

Bach: Toccata in D Major
Barber: Sonata in E flat Minor, Op. 26
Chopin: Barcarolle in F sharp Major, Op. 60
Liszt: Annees de Pelerinage, Deuxieme Annee: Italie
Venezia e Napoli (1859): Gondoliera, Canzone, Tarantella

Ruth Morrow: June 29, 8 p.m. Recital Hall | FREE

Mozart: Rondo in A minor, K. 511
Chopin: Ballade No. 2 in F major/A minor, Op. 38
Muczynski: Desperate Measures (1995)
Schubert: Sonata in Bb major, D.960 (1828)

Read Gainsford: July 5, 8 p.m. Recital Hall | FREE

Berio: Wasserklavier
Ravel: Jeux d'eau
Liszt: Sonata in B Minor, S. 178
J. S. Bach: French Suite in G Major, BWV 816
Vine: Piano Sonata No. 1 (1990)

For more information about the 2009 IU Summer Music Festival, see

For more information on Jonathan Biss, see