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Ludwig Van
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Pianist Jonathan Biss offering free online lectures on Beethoven sonatas, starting Sept. 3

By John Terauds on July 9, 2013

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It’s safe to say we’ll get far, far more than we pay for in a free online course organized by the Curtis Institute and Coursera, featuring pianist Jonathan Biss discussing all of Ludwig van Beethoven’s piano sonatas. The five-week series begins on Sept. 3.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

Biss, who has now performed with the Toronto Symphony as well as solo at Koerner Hall, is a deeply thoughtful musician, and keen to show the world what actually makes up the art of interpretation.

The pianist is in the midst of recording all of the sonatas and has done what any good musician should do: absorb anything and everything to do with the works and their composer. Unlike most musicians, who keep the research hidden as they unveil their interpretations, Biss is laying it all out for public consumption.

The course description says:

This course takes an inside-out look at the 32 piano sonatas from the point of view of a performer. Each lecture will focus on one sonata and an aspect of Beethoven’s music exemplified by it. (These might include: the relationship between Beethoven the pianist and Beethoven the composer; the critical role improvisation plays in his highly structured music; his mixing of extremely refined music with rougher elements; and the often surprising ways in which the events of his life influenced his compositional process and the character of the music he was writing.) The course will feature some analysis and historical background, but its perspective is that of a player, not a musicologist. Its main aim is to explore and demystify the work of the performer, even while embracing the eternal mystery of Beethoven’s music itself.

Biss offers a list of suggested preparatory readings, as well. You can find all the details here.

Here is a peek into Biss’s Beethoven journey:

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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