A member of the faculty of his alma mater the Curtis Institute of Music since 2010, Biss led the first massive open online course (MOOC) offered by a classical music conservatory, Exploring Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, which has reached more than 100,000 people in more than 160 countries.
This season Biss launches his latest Beethoven project, Beethoven/5, for which the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is commissioning five composers to write new piano concertos, each inspired by one of Beethoven's five piano concertos. The five-year plan begins in 2015 in Minnesota, where Biss will play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2 and the new concerto by Timo Andres that it inspired; the program is repeated later in the season at the Ulster Orchestra, with further performances planned for the following season. In the next four years, Biss will premiere new concertos by Sally Beamish, Salvatore Sciarrino, Caroline Shaw, and Brett Dean, each paired with a Beethoven concerto.
In 2015-16 Biss performs an exciting combination of orchestral works, solo pieces, and chamber music. He appears with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin; the Sydney and Melbourne symphonies; the Philadelphia Orchestra; the BBC Scottish, Atlanta, Lahti, and New Jersey symphony orchestras; the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. He extends his teaching activities beyond Curtis with master classes at universities across the country and an artist-in-residency with the IRIS Orchestra. In addition to solo recitals across the United States and Europe, he tours with the Doric Quartet in the U.S.; performs at Wigmore Hall and the Concertgebouw with Lisa Batiashvili, Antoine Tamestit, and Jean-Guihen Queyras; collaborates on a Schubert project with Inon Barnatan, and plays recitals with his mother, violinist Miriam Fried. At the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society's 30th Anniversary Gala, Biss plays alongside Richard Goode and the Brentano Quartet.
Biss has embarked on a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas, and he reaches the halfway point in early 2016, when he releases the fifth volume. Upon the release of the fourth volume, BBC Music Magazine said, “Jonathan Biss will surely take his place among the greats if he continues on this exalted plane.” His bestselling eBook, Beethoven’s Shadow, published by RosettaBooks in 2011, was the first Kindle Single written by a classical musician, and he will continue to add lectures to his extraordinarily popular online course, Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, until he covers all of them.
Biss’s Schumann: Under the Influence project was a 30-concert exploration of the composer's role in musical history. Biss and several hand-picked collaborators performed Schumann's work in juxtaposition with the music of Purcell, Beethoven, Schubert, Berg, Janacek, and Timo Andres. As part of the project, Biss recorded Schumann and Dvorák Piano Quintets with the Elias String Quartet and wrote an Amazon Kindle Single on Schumann, A Pianist Under the Influence. This season, Schumann's Kreisleriana features on Biss's recital program, along with Mozart and Schoenberg.
Throughout his career, Biss has been an advocate for new music. Among the works he has commissioned are Lunaire Variations by David Ludwig, Interlude II by Leon Kirchner, Wonderer by Lewis Spratlan, and Three Pieces for Piano and a concerto by Bernard Rands, which he premiered with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He has also premiered a piano quintet by William Bolcom.
Biss represents the third generation in a family of professional musicians that includes his grandmother Raya Garbousova, one of the first well-known female cellists (for whom Samuel Barber composed his Cello Concerto), and his parents, violinist Miriam Fried and violist/violinist Paul Biss. Growing up surrounded by music, Biss began his piano studies at age six, and his first musical collaborations were with his mother and father. He studied at Indiana University with Evelyne Brancart and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with Leon Fleisher. At age 20, Biss made his New York recital debut at the 92nd Street Y’s Tisch Center for the Arts and his New York Philharmonic debut under Kurt Masur.
Biss has been recognized with numerous honors, including the Leonard Bernstein Award presented at the 2005 Schleswig-Holstein Festival, Wolf Trap’s Shouse Debut Artist Award, the Andrew Wolf Memorial Chamber Music Award, Lincoln Center’s Martin E. Segal Award, an Avery Fisher Career Grant, the 2003 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award, and the 2002 Gilmore Young Artist Award. His recent albums for EMI won Diapason d’Or de l’année and Edison awards. He was an artist-in-residence on American Public Media’s Performance Today and was the first American chosen to participate in the BBC’s New Generation Artist program.