UNQUIET: Stephen Fry [pictured] & Jonathan Biss on Beethoven

Thursday 11 March at 7pm GMT

Tickets priced £9.50 available here for stream of pre-recorded talk on KPlayer; available on demand until 23:59 on Thursday 18 March

“Beethovenisa special case. As E. M. Forster put it, we can trust him because – however much he rewards us with glory, resolution and joy – he never hides the horrible, the ugly and the frightening from us. He cannot pretend. He is our champion, our Prometheus. He burns himself when he brings us fire. It is usually non-musicians like me who open ourselves up to (quite justifiable) accusations of pretension and ignorance, who try to stammer out something incoherent and babbling whenever we stand at the foothills of Mount Beethoven, but when someone like Jonathan expresses what we can’t quite name with such force, conviction and authority, well – it makes all the difference.” 

So wrote Stephen Fry after listening to American pianist Jonathan Biss’s moving new Audible original UNQUIET: My Life with Beethoven in which Biss outlines in rich detail both the treasures Beethoven’s music has gifted him and the searing self-doubt and crippling anxiety that has resulted from it. To mark the US release of UNQUIET, Jonathan Biss was joined by Stephen Fry for a virtual conversation about its underlying theme – mental health in the context of life as an artist.  

In their UNQUIET talk, Fry & Biss engage in thoughtful and candid dialogue about their personal experiences as entertainers and the extent to which having mental health issues might have contributed to – and been exacerbated by – their decisions to become performers. 

Jonathan Biss first encountered Beethoven’s music as a young boy and quickly became obsessed with it. After years of studying and performing the composer’s works for piano, in 2011, he embarked on a nine-year project to record all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, while also performing and lecturing about his music around the world. He expected this project to be “the most fulfilling experience of [his] life” but he did not anticipate the latent anxieties that his journey would uncover.  

“It is incredibly important to be reminded by real, trained, gifted and skilled musicians that they are no less subject to the astounding emotional eruptions, explosions, questions and confusions that simultaneously afflict and thrill us musically deficient amateurs.” Stephen Fry 

UNQUIET is the second talk in an on-going collaboration between Kings Place and New York’s 92Y. The first marking International Women’s Day on Monday 8 March features former Australian PM, Julia Gillard, in an eye-opening conversation about power, sexism, and the rise of women leaders on the world stage. Her talk with Melanne Verveer, former Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, is available on demand until 23:59 on Monday 15 March.