Pianist Jonathan Biss: Classical Music Can Be for Anyone

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Audio above: Jonathan Biss talks about breaking down barriers between performers and audiences

Video above: Jonathan Biss talks Beethoven on PBS News Hour

This week is Week Four of pianist Jonathan Biss’ Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas,” offered through Coursera in conjunction with the Curtis Institute of Music. During the first three weeks of the course, I posted excerpts from a conversation I had with Biss about his obsession with Beethoven, Beethoven’s place in culture today and the emotional power of Beethoven’s music. In the audio excerpt above, Biss talks about his aim for teaching his MOOC on Beethoven’s piano sonatas to 25,000 students from every possible background, musical or not: to remove the barrier that the stage can create between audiences and the performers and music they hear, and to eliminate the “intimidation factor” from classical music.

“The only condition you really need to appreciate music is openness to it,” Biss said. “If you go into the experience of hearing a piece or hearing discussion of a piece … with your ears wide open and with a desire to go deeper into it, it doesn’t matter all that much how much knowledge you have already. Classical music can be for anyone who is attracted to it.”

Read more: 

  • Online Beethoven Course Attracts 25,000 Students (Classical 101)
  • Pianist Jonathan Biss on Beethoven As Cultural Hero (Classical 101)
  • The Emotional Power of Beethoven’s Music (Classical 101)
  • The Year of the MOOC (NYT)
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