Günther Herbig Leads BSO and Pianist Jonathan Biss in Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, May 31-June 2

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German conductor Günther Herbig will lead the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and pianist Jonathan Biss in Beethoven’s powerful Piano Concerto No. 3 on Thursday, May 31 at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore, and Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2 at 8 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

German conductor Günther Herbig will lead the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and pianist Jonathan Biss in Beethoven’s powerful Piano Concerto No. 3 on Thursday, May 31 at 8 p.m. at the Music Center at Strathmore, and Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2 at 8 p.m. at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. In honor of three Austro-Germanic musical giants, this program features landmark artistic works by Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. An irrefutably chronological program, Maestro Herbig will open with Mozart’s famous Symphony No. 40, his G minor symphony. Mozart will be followed by Beethoven’s third piano concerto, performed by American pianist Jonathan Biss, who calls the composer’s writing “the most life-affirming, yet unfathomable music I know to exist.” The evening will conclude with Schubert’s Symphony No. 6, a charming piece commonly known as the “Little C Major” symphony. Please see below for complete program details.

Of Mozart’s final three symphonies, No. 40 is the darkest. Musicologist Alfred Einstein called the first and last movements "plunges into the abyss of the soul," while historian Charles Rosen calls the work one of Mozart's "supreme expressions of suffering and terror." Speculation may never cease as to the circumstances surrounding his final symphonies–for whom and why they were written–but it can be concluded with relative confidence that Symphony No. 40 provided some semblance of an emotional outlet for a personally and publicly struggling Mozart.

At 31, Jonathan Biss is establishing himself as a leading performer of Beethoven’s piano repertoire. Earlier this year, he released the first in a recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete sonatas spanning nine years and nine discs. As he said in a February 2011 interview, “Beethoven is like my daily bread. He's a composer I'm playing all the time, and coming to terms with his music is one of my big life goals.” When Biss performed Beethoven’s third piano concerto with the Houston Symphony in 2011, he was said to have, “…flawless technique and a rare blend of feeling and fresh invention that made this classic, first heard in 1803, sound newborn” (Houston Chronicle). Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, in the key of C minor, is a work of contrasting moods–its opening movement is highly dramatic, its slow movement gorgeously lyrical and its finale a comic masterpiece.

Schubert was undoubtedly one of the countless composers influenced by Mozart and Beethoven. Both written in 1816, his fourth and fifth symphonies in particular evidence a fondness for his predecessors. The characteristics of Schubert’s Symphony No. 6, however, are strikingly Italian. Rhythmic vitality, bright melodies, light textures and a preference for solo woodwinds, all hint at Rossini’s opera buffa and Viennese symphonic music. Although the piece is sometimes referred to as his “Little C Major” symphony, the title in no way indicates the symphony’s scale or length, but is simply an inaccurate identifier to distinguish it from the composer’s ninth symphony, the “Great C Major.”

Günther Herbig, conductor
Günther Herbig left behind the challenging political environment of East Germany and moved to the United States in 1984, where he has since conducted all of the top-tier orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the Chicago, Boston and San Francisco symphony orchestras.

Posts Herbig has held include music director of the Detroit Symphony and the Toronto Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor of both the Dallas Symphony and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and general music director of both the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra and Berlin Symphony Orchestra. Former Artistic Advisor of the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan, he is now their Conductor Laureate. He is Principal Guest Conductor of Las Palmas in the Grand Canaries, Spain.

Herbig has toured America several times with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and received high praise for the many performances they gave in New York’s Carnegie Hall. In January 1989, he toured Europe with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with Gidon Kremer as soloist to critical acclaim. In 1990, he toured the Far East with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and in the spring of 1991, he toured Europe with them in his 37th international orchestra tour. He has also conducted most of the major European orchestras and has also toured Japan, South America and Australia many times.

He has recorded more than 100 works, some of which were with the East German orchestras with whom he was associated prior to moving to the West in 1984. Since then he has made recordings with several of the London orchestras, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the Saarbrücken RSO.

Key figures in his musical training include Hermann Abendroth, Hermann Scherchen and Herbert von Karajan. He has recorded over 100 works with a variety of East German orchestras, Toronto Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and others. England’s Manchester Evening News calls Herbig “one of the greats,” adding “Herbig…brings life and distinction to everything he touches…”

Jonathan Biss, piano
American pianist Jonathan Biss is widely regarded for his artistry, musical intelligence and deeply felt interpretations, winning international recognition for his orchestral, recital and chamber music performances and for his award-winning recordings. He performs a diverse repertoire ranging from Mozart and Beethoven, through the Romantics to Janácek and Schoenberg as well as works by contemporary composers such as György Kurtág and including commissions from Leon Kirchner, Lewis Spratlan and Bernard Rands.

Jonathan Biss, whom The New Yorker describes as playing with “unerring sophistication,” made his New York Philharmonic debut in 2001, and since then has appeared with the foremost orchestras of North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. He is a frequent performer at leading international music festivals and gives recitals in major music capitals both at home and abroad.

In January 2012, Onyx Classics released the first CD in a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete sonatas. The first CD features Opus 10, No. 1 in C minor, Opus 22 in B flat major, Opus 26 in A flat major and Opus 81a in E flat major, Les Adieux. Mr. Biss’s previous recordings include an album of Schubert Sonatas in A major, D. 959 and C major, D. 840 and two short Kurtág pieces from Játékok that was released in October 2009 on the Wigmore Hall Live label and named by NPR Music as one of the best albums of the year. It follows four acclaimed recordings for EMI Classics, including an all-Schumann recital album, which won a Diapason d’Or de l’année award and a recital album of Beethoven Piano Sonatas, Opp. 13, 28, 90 and 109; which received an Edison Award. With the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra he recorded Mozart Piano Concertos 21 and 22 in a live performance. His first recording for EMI Classics was a 2004 recording on EMI’s Debut series of works by Beethoven and Schumann.

Jonathan Biss, who was born in 1980, 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, Mr. 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. In 2010 Mr. Biss was appointed to the piano faculty of The Curtis Institute and he performed with The Curtis Symphony Orchestra in October 2011 in Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center.

Mr. Biss has been recognized with numerous awards, 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. 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.

COMPLETE PROGRAM DETAILS
BSO Classical Concert: Mozart and Beethoven
Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 8 p.m. – Music Center at Strathmore
Friday, June 1, 2012 at 8 p.m. – Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (JMSH)
Saturday, June 2, 2012 at 8 p.m. – JMSH

Günther Herbig, conductor
Jonathan Biss, piano

Mozart: Symphony No. 40
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3
Schubert: Symphony No. 6

Tickets range from $28 to $88 and are available through the BSO Ticket Office, 410.783.8000 or BSOmusic.org.

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Alyssa Porambo
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
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