The Classics and the Quirky: Jonathan Biss

I apologise – once again – for my blogging inactivity as of late. My frellin’ computer is still not working, so it will still be a couple of days before I’m back to posting regularly again.

One of my main missions as a blogger has always been that of convincing the younger generations that classical music does not have to be boring and stiff and conventional, and, even more importantly, that classical music is more than the odd “Für Elise” or second movement of Mozart’s 21st Piano Concert featured on their No Stress CDs. Classical music is lively and versatile and youthful and displays just a wide range of emotions as rock music or other contemporary genres, dammit! And Verdi could be just as bad-ass as any heavy-rock band when the mood struck him.

So naturally, I’m always glad when I encounter classical musicians who seem to have embarked on the same mission as I have, and who apparently see it as part of their task as musicians to breaking with the dusty, dark-suited, stiff-upper-lipped image that clings to their trade, by shaking up their looks, their way of communicating the press – or indeed by creating fun, dynamic and up-to-date websites!

An example of such an artist is young American pianist Jonathan Biss whose website is one of the quirkiest and funniest sites on the topic of classical music I’ve ever read.

Jonathan Biss

Whereas a lot of classical musicians choose to fill their biography pages with long lists of concert halls and awards and titles that most people have never even heard of, Biss has gone in a completely different direction and presents a very amusing take on his own life story as a musician. See for instance Biss’ recount of his own debut as a musician when he was only a fetus:

“Jonathan Biss was born in 1980; his professional debut preceded this event by several months, when he performed, prenatally, the Mozart A Major Violin Concerto at Carnegie Hall, with the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Lorin Maazel.”

A footnote added by Biss then explains that the concert in question was one where his mother, violinist Miriam Fried, played while pregnant with Biss, and Biss adds the following review:

The New York Star-Bulletin observed, “While visibly pregnant violinist Miriam Fried was extremely persuasive and the more obviously active soloist, it was impossible not to be moved by Mr. Biss’s more modest contribution: quiet – really very quiet – but with an inner conviction which was quite haunting.””

:D Wonderful! I also love Biss’ disarming way of describing his life goal as a musician:

“This enthusiasm (or, if you take the word of Mr. Biss’s friends and associates, “obsessiveness” and “neurosis”) remains today, as does the feeling that doing justice to great music is an ever unattainable goal. () While this doesn’t necessarily make life easy, it is Mr. Biss’s deeply held sentiment that any other approach would be unthinkable. Or, in his own words, “if I ever stop finding music challenging and life-altering, I’ll quit and become an accountant.””

Biss also keeps a blog on his website, which offers a peek into his life as a touring musicians. A great idea which serves to demystify the often idolized classical musician: While the blog features beautifully written entries on for instance Beethoven’s qualities, there are also down-to-earth and very funny posts on the subject of incompetent airport staff and lost luggage.

Apart from being a talented musician, Biss is obviously a talented writer and a fun, quirky person, and I very much recommend his blog.

I plan to start presenting interesting and innovative blogs on classical music regularly, so stay tuned for more recommendations!


3 responses to “The Classics and the Quirky: Jonathan Biss

  1. I love your attitude to classical music, Marie. If only there would be more of that in general communication of classical music I’m sure it would fuel the interest of younger people.
    And that is one awesome t-shirt – where can I get it – do they have any with Amadeuz or Richard?!

  2. atthelighthouse

    I found it here:

    I haven’t looked, but I’m sure there have Amadeus and Richard, too! I know I once found a “Bach is my Homeboy” tee somewhere online that I was very by as well :)


  3. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation :) Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Normandy.

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