BY Libby Hanssen, Special to The Star
He is touring “Schumann: Under the Influence,” a project three years in the making that examines the works and influence of Robert Schumann, as well as that of his predecessors.
Friday night’s concert, presented by Friends of Chamber Music, featured the second solo piano recital program for this project, a wide-reaching endeavor that includes chamber ensemble collaborations. This concert also included works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Leos Janacek.
Biss proved himself a master of the miniature. Most of the evening’s pieces, except the Mozart selections, were published as cycles or in volumes, with each of the movements ranging in length from one to five minutes. Yet each portion had its own distinct sound world and was succinctly, if sometimes turbulently, emotive.
The first half of the program combined Schumann’s “Fantasiestucke, Op. 12” with selections from Janacek’s “On an Overgrown Path.”
The individual movements for both works are programmatically titled, and Biss juxtaposed these sections, coupling similar thematic concepts, such as Schumann’s transparent and evocative “Des Abends” and Janacek’s “Our Evening,” with a wafting melody that briefly shifts to pounding, brambly chords.
The second half of the program opened with two small-scale piano selections from Mozart. Minuet in D major, K.355 was a lighter, short piece, but the Adagio in B minor, K.540 was a strenuous work, written in a darker time in Mozart’s life. Biss played it with expressive empathy, molding space around each emotional shift.
He ended with “Davidsbundlertanze, Op. 6,” arguably one of Schumann’s masterworks and a fine example of both his compositional vision and mercurial emotional range.
The work is less formally structured, based loosely on dance forms. Thematic motives ranged wildly through the piece and turned from vicious to pensive, lively to impatient, requiring Biss to channel multiple personalities. He paused minimally between the movements for a thrilling rendition, gently addressing the final closing tones, somberly genuine.
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