Borletti-Buitoni Trust
BBT Artists Rewarding Musical Excellence
Jonathan Biss
BBT Award 2003

Jonathan Biss - Biography

Jonathan Biss received support from BBT between 2003 and 2008. For an up-to-date biography go to

Jonathan Biss is a world-renowned pianist who shares his deep curiosity with music lovers in the concert hall and beyond. He continues to expand his reputation as a teacher, musical thinker, and one of the great Beethoven interpreters of our time. He was recently named Co-artistic Director alongside Mitsuko Uchida at the Marlboro Music Festival, where he had already spent twelve summers. In addition, he has written extensively about his relationships with the composers with whom he shares a stage. 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 150,000 people in 185 countries.

As 2020, the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, approaches, Biss continues to add lectures to his online course until he covers all of the sonatas in time for the anniversary year. At the same time, he progresses in his nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas, which will also be completed in 2020. His bestselling eBook, Beethoven’s Shadow, describing the process of recording the sonatas and published by Rosetta Books in 2011, was the first Kindle Single written by a classical musician. These projects represent Biss’ complete approach to music-making and connecting his audience to his own passion for the music.

He conceived the Beethoven/5 project, for which the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has co-commissioned Timo Andres, Sally Beamish, Salvatore Sciarrino, Caroline Shaw, and Brett Dean to write piano concertos, each inspired by one of Beethoven’s. Biss is committed to making sure that the concertos become part of the repertoire and has performed the commissions globally beyond their premieres. Biss has long-standing relationships with the New York Philharmonic; the Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Philharmonia orchestras; the Boston, Chicago, and Swedish Radio symphony orchestras; and the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Budapest Festival, and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras, among many others.

Biss began piano lessons at age six and studied at Indiana University with Evelyne Brancart and at the Curtis Institute of Music with Leon Fleisher.

Last updated: October 2018

I’ve never heard of an organisation like this one – whose stated goals are to help nurture the careers of young people in whatever ways they deem important – and I think their mission is a fantastic one. When you are young, you are sometimes pushed in many different directions, and having an organisation using its influence (and funds) to help you do what is important for YOU is an incredible thing. Also, for me, as an American, to have a European organisation helping me – monetarily and otherwise – is a huge boost, and opens many doors. Being chosen for an award is a great honour in any event, but in many ways competitions strike me as antithetical to the spirit of music. This is the best of both worlds – a wonderful panel of people makes the decisions, but no one suffers for it!

Photographs by Benjamin Ealovega