• Pianist Jonathan Biss and members of the Elias String Quartet have embarked on a season-long immersion into the music of Robert Schumann. "Each of the many programs the project encompasses will feature not only Schumann's music but the music that shaped him, and the incredibly wide swath of music that owes a debt to him," Biss says.
    Hide caption
    Pianist Jonathan Biss and members of the Elias String Quartet have embarked on a season-long immersion into the music of Robert Schumann. "Each of the many programs the project encompasses will feature not only Schumann's music but the music that shaped him, and the incredibly wide swath of music that owes a debt to him," Biss says.
    Melanie Burford/For NPR
  • This Zankel Hall concert (at Carnegie Hall) opened with a performance of Mozart's Piano Quartet in E-flat, K. 493.
    Hide caption
    This Zankel Hall concert (at Carnegie Hall) opened with a performance of Mozart's Piano Quartet in E-flat, K. 493.
    Melanie Burford/For NPR
  • Pianist Jonathan Biss with three members of the London-based Elias String Quartet (violinist Sara Bitlloch, violist Martin Saving, and cellist Marie Bitlloch) take bows after Mozart's Piano Quintet in E-flat, a piece Biss says "thrives so much on the small and unexpected detail."
    Hide caption
    Pianist Jonathan Biss with three members of the London-based Elias String Quartet (violinist Sara Bitlloch, violist Martin Saving, and cellist Marie Bitlloch) take bows after Mozart's Piano Quintet in E-flat, a piece Biss says "thrives so much on the small and unexpected detail."
    Melanie Burford/For NPR
  • Alone on the Zankel Hall stage, the Elias String Quartet plays the dramatic String Quartet No. 2 by Leos Janacek. Written in the final year of the composer's life, the music is fueled by the passion he held for a woman 37 years his junior.
    Hide caption
    Alone on the Zankel Hall stage, the Elias String Quartet plays the dramatic String Quartet No. 2 by Leos Janacek. Written in the final year of the composer's life, the music is fueled by the passion he held for a woman 37 years his junior.
    Melanie Burford/For NPR
  • Janacek subtitled his String Quartet No. 2 "Intimate Letters," a reference to the 700 letters he wrote to the younger woman he longed for.
    Hide caption
    Janacek subtitled his String Quartet No. 2 "Intimate Letters," a reference to the 700 letters he wrote to the younger woman he longed for.
    Melanie Burford/For NPR
  • Zankel Hall was sold out for this concert, one of many Jonathan Biss and the Elias String Quartet have performed around Europe and North America in the project called Schumann: Under the Influence.
    Hide caption
    Zankel Hall was sold out for this concert, one of many Jonathan Biss and the Elias String Quartet have performed around Europe and North America in the project called Schumann: Under the Influence.
    Melanie Burford/For NPR
  • The Elias String Quartet performers — violinists Sara Bitlloch and Donald Grant, violist Martin Saving and cellist Marie Bitlloch — acknowledging the applause from the appreciative audience at Zankel Hall.
    Hide caption
    The Elias String Quartet performers — violinists Sara Bitlloch and Donald Grant, violist Martin Saving and cellist Marie Bitlloch — acknowledging the applause from the appreciative audience at Zankel Hall.
    Melanie Burford/For NPR
  • Pianist Jonathan Biss joins the Elias Quartet for the New York premiere of a brand new piece, the Piano Quintet by the young New York composer and Timothy Andres. There are connections between the new work and Schumann's Piano Quartet in E-flat, which anchored this concert.
    Hide caption
    Pianist Jonathan Biss joins the Elias Quartet for the New York premiere of a brand new piece, the Piano Quintet by the young New York composer and Timothy Andres. There are connections between the new work and Schumann's Piano Quartet in E-flat, which anchored this concert.
    Melanie Burford/For NPR
  • Composer Timothy Andres (second from left) is called on the Zankel Hall stage to accept applause after a performance of his new Piano Quintet, a joint commission from Carnegie Hall, San Francisco Performances, Wigmore Hall in London, and Amsterdam's Concertgebouw.
    Hide caption
    Composer Timothy Andres (second from left) is called on the Zankel Hall stage to accept applause after a performance of his new Piano Quintet, a joint commission from Carnegie Hall, San Francisco Performances, Wigmore Hall in London, and Amsterdam's Concertgebouw.
    Melanie Burford/For NPR

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Classics in Concert

Carnegie Hall Live: Jonathan Biss And The Elias String Quartet

Carnegie Hall Live: Jonathan Biss And The Elias String Quartet
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In October, pianist Jonathan Biss set out on a vision quest, a season-long immersion in music by Robert Schumann. Biss and the members of England's Elias String Quartet have been exploring Schumann and associated composers in cities throughout Europe and North America, including a Carnegie Hall concert webcast live on this page (and at WQXR) Tuesday, April 2 at 8 p.m. ET.

Biss dubbed the tour Schumann: Under the Influence. In each of the 30-some performances Schumann is the centerpiece, surrounded by composers who inspired him and by successors as diverse as the 87-year-old György Kurtág and American composer Timothy Andres, still in his 20s. A new piano quintet by Andres will receive its New York premiere at the Carnegie concert.

To get his journey started, Biss penned a series of Schumann essays for NPR Music and then sat down to play Schumann's music and talk about it with Performance Today host Fred Child.

Schumann, Biss says, has always been a huge part of his life. He has bonded deeply with the composer, who he feels is both misunderstood and underrated.

"It would be fair to call Under the Influence an advocacy project," Biss writes on NPR Music's blog Deceptive Cadence. He also says that in trying to explain why Schumann's reputation needs rehabilitation he's surprised even himself.

"I feel protective of him. The feeling is there, unmistakably, but I recognize that it is bizarre. Schumann is, after all, one of history's best-represented composers, not an injured baby animal to be wrapped in a blanket."

Still, the misconceptions abound. And Biss is quick to dispel them, pointing out that Schumann's symphonies are indeed well orchestrated and that the late pieces, written after the composer's bout with mental illness, are far from incoherent.

There's no dispute, however, over the greatness of the Piano Quartet in E-flat. A staple of the chamber music repertoire, it also anchors the upcoming Carnegie performance.

"Some moments in Schumann's Piano Quartet have a euphoria much like that of the more famous Quintet," Biss says. "Others are reminiscent of his greatest piano works in the sense of the privacy and fragility they convey. Because Schumann is Schumann, these two sides belong to one another — they come together to make an improbable, magnificent whole."

Program:
  • MOZART Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, K. 493
  • JANÁCEK String Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters"
  • TIMOTHY ANDRES Piano Quintet (NY Premiere, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall)
  • SCHUMANN Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47
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