fully because I need it to, because I, who am generally so difficult to shut up, am still rendered as
inarticulate as that thirteen-year-old with night
terrors when it comes to communicating my
own emotions? Why is it that for some of us,
music is almost painfully suffused with meaning, whereas for others it is just C–E flat–B natural? Are the people who react most strongly to
music those of us who are least able to say the
things we need to say?
Whatever op. 111 meant to Beethoven, its
impact on me has been nothing less than trans-
formational. And the same goes for the late
works of Mozart, of Schumann, of Britten, and
on and on and on. It is not merely that I find
them beautiful or mesmeric or nourishing; it is
that I sense that they are accessing something
that I want badly to access myself.
And what is that something? I am characteristically and distressingly hazy on the point.
The music itself is either bringing me closer to
the answer or insulating me from it.
From Coda. Raised in Bloomington, Indiana, Biss,
a concert pianist, claims to have made his Carnegie
Hall debut several months before his birth, in 1980,
when his mother, Miriam Fried, a renowned violinist,
performed a Mozart concerto there while pregnant.
In 2016 Biss began a study of composers’ “late style,”
performing and writing on the late-in-life works of
Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Britten, Schubert, Schumann, and others. He lives in New York City.
The Spanish Singer, by Édouard Manet, 1860.