Jonathan Biss
David Bazemore

This fascinating program was titled “The Late Style” and brought together three pieces that were the last Ludwig van Beethoven composed in that particular genre – the Sonata in G Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 96; the Sonata in C Minor for Piano, Op. 111; and the String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135. Nowhere has the concept of “late style” been more discussed than in relation to the music of Beethoven, whose story adds the pathos of his increasing deafness to the onset of mortality. From a composer with Beethoven’s extraordinary command of his art, it would be reasonable to expect that his final works would revisit and summarize what had come before, but that’s not at all what happened. Beethoven’s late style is by turns episodic, digressive, whimsical, and otherworldly, and these fine musicians capture every one of these aspects in distinctive, passionate renditions of these works. Mark Steinberg was very impressive on the violin sonata with pianist Jonathan Biss; his playing was relaxed yet crystal clear at every tempo. Biss is one of the great pianists of his generation, and he delivered a memorably passionate account of the piano sonata Opus 111, one of the greatest (and strangest!) musical compositions of all time. The final piece, the Quartet, while not as extreme in pushing the boundaries of the form as some of the other high-numbered opuses, was nevertheless an ideal capstone to this monumental chamber program.


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