Classical & Romantic Music
by Jonathan Biss
Love List is our Spotify series where we ask Opera House guests, friends and staff to curate a playlist dedicated to an artist, genre or theme of their choice – an ode to something they love. Ahead of his debut performance for Utzon Music 2022, American pianist Jonathan Biss curated a list of cherished music from the Classical and Romantic periods.
Biss is one of the world’s most sought-after pianists, a regular performer with major orchestras, concert halls and festivals around the globe and co-Artistic Director of Marlboro Music. He is a renowned teacher, writer and musical thinker who fully immerses himself in projects close to his heart.
For his Love List, Jonathan has selected profound and moving recordings of Brahms, Schubert, Schumann and Beethoven - music he loves. So much so, that he even produced his own recordings of Beethoven's complete sonatas.
"Making a list of my favourite recordings was a real mission impossible, given the wealth of options to choose from. But each of these tracks has moved and inspired me more than I can say — in many cases, for nearly my entire life."
Discover the intensity and power of Classical and Romantic music with this sublime Love List.
Mendelssohn’s piano music manages to be both effortlessly fluid and profound. Perahia plays it with directness, lyricism, and total beauty.
Ferrier’s voice and Schubert’s music are two things which make me believe there must be some higher power in this universe; combined here (along with Britten’s marvelous playing), the result is overwhelming.
▷ Brahms: Piano Trio in C Major, Op. 87 II. Andante con moto - Myra Hess, Joseph Szigeti, Pablo Casals
Casals evidently thought this was one of the best things he ever participated in; I agree. Each variation is more moving than the last, and every note is deeply meaningful.
▷ Schubert: Quintet in C Major, D. 956 II. Adagio - Isaac Stern, Alexander Schneider, Milton Katims, Pablo Casals, Paul Tortelier
If you polled ten classical musicians on the question of what they’d like to have played at their funeral, I suspect five would choose this movement. It is not difficult to understand why: on top of the astonishing beauty of the music, there is little to say about life, and death, that Schubert doesn’t manage to say here.
I could listen to Cortot play Schumann all day, even day, even though his choices are almost invariably different than mine. His performance of the Prophet Bird locates the precise nexus of poetry and mystery.
▷ Brahms: Piano Concerto in d minor, Op. 15 II. Adagio - Leon Fleisher and The Cleveland Orchestra conducted by George Szell
A fifteen-minute-long hymn, this music is equally an expression of love. When I listen to Leon Fleisher – my teacher and one of the unforgettable artists of the last century – play it, I feel that he is in the room with me.
▷ Beethoven: String Quartet in E flat Major, Op. 127 II. Adagio, ma non troppo e molto cantabile - The Busch Quartet
I think the last Beethoven string quartets have to be the deepest music ever written. The slow movement of op. 127 is a special favourite of mine, played here with utter intensity and commitment by the Busches.
▷ Schumann: “Waldung, Sie Schwankt Heran” from Scenes from Goethe’s Faust - Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Nikolaus Harnancourt
Schumann’s operatic music is as unjustly neglected as his lieder are beloved. It’s hard to pick a favourite Faust excerpt, but this chorus is strangely moving in a way that captures the essence of Schumann’s personality.
The F minor quartet is perhaps the darkest piece Mendelssohn wrote, but this movement is all consolation. The Elias Quartet capture it with aching tenderness.
▷ Beethoven: Sonata in A flat Major, Op. 110 III. Adagio ma non troppo – Fuga: Allegro ma non troppo - Artur Schnabel
I can’t think of a movement of music with a wider emotional range: from deepest despair, to absolute euphoria. Schnabel captures the full spectrum as only he could.