Malcolm Bilson has been in the forefront of the period-instrument movement for over thirty years. A member of the Cornell Music Department since 1968, he began his pioneering activity in the early 1970s as a performer of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert on late 18th- and early 19th-century pianos. Since then he has proven to be a key contributor to the restoration of the fortepiano to the concert stage and to fresh recordings of the “mainstream” repertory. In addition to an extensive career as a soloist and chamber player, Bilson has toured with the English Baroque Soloists with John Eliot Gardiner, the Academy of Ancient Music with Christopher Hogwood, the Philharmonia Baroque under Nicholas McGegan, Tafelmusik of Toronto, Concerto Köln and other early and modern instrument orchestras around the world. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Bard College and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Mr. Bilson has recorded the three most important complete cycles of works for piano by Mozart: the piano concertos with John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists, the piano-violin Sonatas with Sergiu Luca, and the solo piano sonatas. His traversal on period pianos of the Schubert piano sonatas (including the so-called incomplete sonatas) was completed in 2003, and in 2005 a single CD of Haydn sonatas will appear on the Claves label. In the fall of 1994 Bilson and six of his former artist-pupils from Cornell’s D.M.A. program in historical performance practice presented the 32 piano sonatas of Beethoven in New York City, the first time ever that these works had been given as a cycle on period instruments. The New York Times said that “what emerged in these performances was an unusually clear sense of how revolutionary these works must have sounded in their time.” The recording of this series garnered over fifty very positive reviews and has recently been reissued.
In addition to his activities in Cornell’s performance-practice program, Professor Bilson teaches piano to both graduate and undergraduate students. He is also adjunct professor at the Eastman School of Music. He gives annual summer fortepiano workshops at various locations in the United States and Europe, as well as master classes and lectures (generally in conjunction with solo performances) around the world. In his educational video entitled “Knowing the Score,” released in 2005, Bilson discusses the question: Do we really know how to read the notation of the so-called ‘classical’ masters?
- “Execution and Expression in Mozart’s Sonata in E-flat, K. 282.” Early Music 20/2 (1992), 237-43.
- “Do We Know How to Read Urtext Editions?” Piano and Keyboard Magazine (August 1995), 24-30.
- “The Myth of the Authentic Pianoforte.” International Piano (July 2002), 46-52.
- “Der Mythos vom authentischen Pianoforte.” Piano News (January 2004), 40-47.
- “Klaviere an deutschen Hochschulen: Die Vereinheitlichung des Instrumentenklangs” (Pianos in German Conservatories: Standardization of Instrumental Sound). Piano News (January 2005).
- “Knowing the Score: Do We Know How to Read Urtext Editions and How Can This Lead to Expressive and Passionate Performance?” Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005.
- Mozart, Piano Concertos Nos. 5-27 (9 CDs), with John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists (Deutsche Grammophon-Archiv).
- Mozart, Piano Concertos Nos. 1-4 (Pasticci), with Thomas Crawford and the Orchestra of the Old Fairfield Academy (Music Masters).