Virtuoso timpanist Jonathan Haas has raised the status of the timpani to that of a solo instrument throughout his unique career that has spanned more than twenty years. From classical concertos to jazz and rock & roll, from symphonic masterpieces to the most experimental compositions of living composers, Haas has championed, commissioned, unearthed and celebrated music for his instrument, becoming, as Ovation magazine hailed him, "The Paganini of the timpani."
His concerts on the world's most prestigious musical stages and his ground-breaking recordings have delighted critics and listeners on both sides of the ocean. The New York Times wrote, "Wherever one finds a percussion instrument waiting to be rubbed, shook, struck or strummed, [Haas] is probably nearby, ready to fulfill his duties with consummate expertise... he is a masterful young percussionist."
Most recently, Haas has garnered widespread praise and attention for his performances of Philip Glass' Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra, a piece conceived by Haas and completed because of his quest to spotlight the timpani. The Concerto Fantasy features not only two timpanists, but also 14 timpani, all placed downstage in front of the orchestra. In 2000, Haas performed the world premiere of the piece with the American Symphony, and he has subsequently performed it at Carnegie Hall and in Phoenix, New Jersey, Baltimore, Pasadena, Long Beach (California), St. Louis and Mexico City. Haas also performed the European premiere with the BBC Symphony in London, the world premiere of a chamber orchestra version with the Iris Chamber Orchestra in Memphis, the Czechoslovakian premiere with the Prague Symphony Orchestra at the International Music Prague Spring Festival, the Norwegian premiere with the Bergen Philharmonic, and he will perform the Australian premiere with the Sydney Symphony and the Turkish premiere with the Istanbul Philharmonic.
Haas' successful efforts to expand the timpani repertoire have led him to commission and premiere more than 25 works by composers in addition to Philip Glass such as Stephen Albert, Marius Constant, Irwin Bazelon, Eric Ewazen, Thomas Hamilton, Robert Hall Lewis, Jean Piche, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Andrew Thomas, and many others.
Haas built the world's largest timpani and debuted it in 2003 at the Aspen Music Festival. This unprecendented, incredible instrument -- nearly 6' wide and nearly 4' tall – beats the world's second-largest timpani — a 48-incher used by Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw Orchestra — by almost half.
Haas' recordings include the trail-blazing 18th Century Concertos for Timpani and Orchestra and Johnny H. and the Prisoners of Swing, both on Sunset Records. The latter was named for his jazz group and features innovative renderings of jazz compositions featuring "hot timpani" in front of a full jazz ensemble. His rediscovery of Duke Ellington's brilliant composition for jazz timpani, "Tympaturbably Blue," is included on this recording, as are other jazz standards played on a set of ten kettledrums.
Demonstrating a remarkable versatility as a musician, Haas has performed and recorded with Emerson, Lake and Palmer, played on the Grammy Award-winning recording Zappa's Universe, recorded with Aerosmith, Michael Bolton, Black Sabbath, and explored heavy metal with his rock group Clozshave.
The rarest of modern virtuosi, Haas embarked on his career as a solo timpanist by performing the only solo timpani recital ever presented at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1980. As an orchestral soloist, he made his debut with the New York Chamber Orchestra under Maxim Shostakovich and his European solo debut with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta. He made his French debut performing Andrez Panufnick's Concerto for Percussion, Timpani and Orchestra with the Orchestra de la Garde Republicaine. He was the soloist in the Druschetsky Concerto for Eight Timpani, Oboe and Orchestra with the Aspen Chamber Orchestra. He has also performed as a solo timpanist for the Distinguished Artists Recital Series at New York’s 92nd Street ‘Y’ and as a guest artist with the Lincoln Center Chamber Society, the Chamber Music at the ‘Y’ Series, and the Newport Chamber Music Festival. He has championed new music by presenting adventuresome programming such as The Music of Frank Zappa, showcasing the music of Edgar Varese and Frank Zappa, under the auspices of Lincoln Center's Great Performers Series.
Haas is the principal timpanist of the New York Chamber Orchestra, the Aspen Chamber Orchestra and EOS Ensemble, principal percussionist of the American Symphony Orchestra, and a member of the American Composers Orchestra. He performs with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, New York Pops, and New Jersey Symphony and has performed and recorded with the New York Philharmonic, the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, Haas received his Master's Degree from the Juilliard School as a student of Saul Goodman. An inspiring teacher, he has been the director of the Peabody Conservatory Percussion Studio for twenty years and a faculty artist of the Aspen Music School, and he conducts the percussion ensembles at both schools. He has presented master classes throughout the United States and internationally at the Toho Gauken, Hanoi Conservatory, Paris Conservatory, and the Graz Percussion School. Sharing his enthusiasm for music with young people, he has presented over two hundred concert-demonstrations with his "Drumfire" program, under the auspices of the Lincoln Center Institute, the New York Chamber Symphony's Sidney Wolff Children's Concert Series, and the Aspen Festival Young Person's Concert Series.
As active an entrepreneur as he is an artist, Haas heads Sunset Records, Kettles and Company, and Gemini Music Productions which contracts musicians for Lincoln Center, New York Pops, and many other organizations. He also works closely with percussion industry manufacturers Pearl/Adams, Promark and Zildjian, among others.