Jonathan Biss Performs Beethoven

On the second volume in his complete cycle of all 32 sonatas, pianist Jonathan Biss has chosen the Sonata op.7 from 1796, a work exceeded in length only by the ‘Hammerklavier’ sonata, and the most famous of all the sonatas – the ‘Moonlight’, along with the Fantasy Op. 77, and the Sonata number 24, op.78.

I like this CD a lot, with one small exception: I find that the first movement of the “Moonlight” sonata is simply played a bit too fast for my taste. After all, Beethoven gave the first movement the title “Adagio sostenuto”; and – for me – it needs to be played slower.

Let me start with some excerpts from my Spotify file called “Hank’s Biss”. It contains Mr. Biss’ performance of the Moonlight sonata, so you can determine whether you like Mr. Biss’ tempo for the first movement. And there are additional selections from this recording, as well:


Here is a list of all the selections on this CD:


  • Piano Sonata No. 4 in E flat major, Op. 7
  • Piano Sonata No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 ‘Moonlight’
  • Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major, Op. 78
  • Fantasia in G minor, Op. 77

Performed by Jonathan Biss (piano)

Here is a video of the Moonlight sonata, as played by Daniel Barenboim. He plays it at a somewhat slower tempo than Mr. Biss’ tempo. That gives the pianist a chance to slightly lengthen the second note of the theme, so that it is not rushed.

Check this out:  

On the other hand, here is the Piano Sonata No. 5 in C minor: “Adagio molto” with Jonathan Biss. And I find that he really plays “Adagio molto”, and I like it!  

Finally, here is a Conversation with Pianist Jonathan Biss, at the time that his volume 1 of these sonatas was published: