Pierce plays with verve
"This new collection by a fine pianist has the advantage of including the four works for piano and orchestra on a single disc. It begins with a lively, even 'brittle' version of the episodic Second Rhapsody... The orchestra seems more than comfortable with this music; I admire the clarinet smear towards the beginning of the Rhapsody in Blue and the flexibility in tempo throughout. Pierce, whom I have only heard in connection with John Cage, plays with verve...yet without the awful mannerisms Leonard Bernstein inflicted on the music. It's wonderful to hear the great theme of the second movement of the Concerto in F played so well, and recorded so fully... In short, this is a consistently fine set of Gershwin recordings... check out this MSR Classics disc."
-Michael Ullman, Fanfare - November / December 2009
'Piercing' Interpretation of Gershwin's Piano Concerti
"George Gershwin has the distinction of being one of the most prominent compositional voices represented in early Broadway's output, as well as the author of numerous songs and orchestral pieces that have become warhorses in the standard performance repertory. A virtuoso pianist himself, Gershwin's works for piano and orchestra are archetypical of his idiom as well as of his excellent balance and interplay between soloist and orchestra. In this volume, Joshua Pierce presents these four works with great artistic integrity and dedication accompanied by the remarkably supportive Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Kirk Trevor.
"Perhaps purposely ordered to reflect their musical equanimity, Rhapsody in Blue follows the Second Rhapsody, successfully contrasting the two works, the former heard in an intriguingly edified manner when preceded by the style of the latter. Pierce performs the familiar favorite with an unyielding purpose and direction that continually illuminates his performance. The orchestra does remarkably well in supporting Pierce, mastering the 'blue' style Gershwin seeks from the infamous clarinet glissando to the final cadence. Although perhaps not the most elastic interpretation of the work, Pierce is undeniably effective in conveying the thematic elements that are so rife in Gershwin's writing."
The CD concludes with Gershwin's I Got Rhythm Variations, a set of variations on the infamous jazz song, 'I Got Rhythm.' Composed as a virtuoso showpiece for Gershwin to feature himself in his beloved spirit of improvisation, the variations wander quite distantly from the feeling of the original song, taking on foreign keys and modalities, even toying with Oriental allusions and dissonance. As is so critical with theme and variation compositions, Pierce masterfully structures his performance to go right along with the variations, deluding the audience into musically distant territory as well as jovially welcoming it back to reality as the theme returns.
This collection of piano works is beautifully presented, and Pierce's performances faithfully represent the musical ingenuity of this distinctly American composer. The CD liner notes contain biographical information on George Gershwin as well as background and historical context for each of the pieces, including detailed analytical information. Pierce addresses the reader numerous times with personal asides, offset by italics, incorporating his personal take on preparation and score study. The notes conclude with brief biographical entries for Joshua Pierce and Kirk Trevor.
-Robert Myers, Classical Voice of New England
... ...splendidly played
"...splendidly played...[Pierce] has had a long personal connection with Gershwin's music. This manifests itself in the tenderness and feeling he brings to his performances. Technically, Pierce is a top-flight pianist. Pierce makes much of [the Variations] and is also very convincing in the Second Rhapsody. The accompaniments are very involved and the recorded sound excellent."
-Turok's Choice, No.214, October 2009
... smartly played Concerto
"[Mr. Pierce] delivers a smartly played Concerto...the Slovak ensemble under maestro Trevor proves adept at the jazzy idioms of Gershwin's music."
- Koldys, American Record Guide, September / October 2009
... highly satisfying end to a program rich in unexpected delights
"The Pierce-Aomori Duo, consisting of pianist Joshua Pierce and clarinetist Hideaki Aomori, give swiftly flowing, beautifully characterized interpretations of Johannes Brahms' Two Sonatas for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 120. At the conclusion of the program they are joined by cellist Daniel Barrett for the composer's Trio in A Minor, Op. 114, making for a highly satisfying end to a program rich in unexpected delights.
Since these works were the fruit of a last burst of creativity by Brahms, who had intended to retire from composition until a chance encounter in 1891 with virtuoso clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld, we should expect the clarinet to be the star of the proceedings. And Aomori fills the role to perfection, with his smooth legato, effortless production, and splendid breath control, which includes Brahms' frequent requirement for the type of beautifully swelling tone known as a hemiola. But the close partnership of piano and clarinet needs to be in evidence here as well, and Aomori and Pierce come across as a flawlessly integrated duo.
Sonata No. 1 in F Minor shows the close rapport between the two partners in its demand for a strong rhythmic profile and syncopations shared between instruments. A theme in octaves ending in the remote key of G-flat in the piano in the emotionally charged opening movement, marked Allegro appassionato (You said it, Brahms!) is countered by a series of beautifully shaped phrases in the clarinet, giving us an earnest of further riches to come. The Andante, with its flowing 12-bar theme of deceptive simplicity, makes good on that promise. The scherzo is marked Allegretto grazioso, but my own pet name for it is Alligator, or the tricky way the piano's left and right hands and the clarinet are offset, setting up some delicious syncopations. An extroverted, playful rondo in ABACBA form marked Vivace gives both performers ample opportunity to show their stuff.
Sonata No. 2 in E-flat opens with a long, melancholy solo line from the clarinet. The interplay between clarinet and piano is intricate and charming. In this opening movement Pierce and Aomori pay close attention to Brahms' unusually detailed expressive marking amabile, molto dolce sempre and tranquillo. An Allegro appassionato with a contrasted simple melody in the trio section serves as both scherzo and slow movement in this 3-movement sonata. The finale, Andante con moto, is a set of variations calling for lively interplay between the two players.
In the Trio in A Minor for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, the mood is sweetly reflective and elegiac, even a bit nostalgic. The addition of the cello called for three principal themes, instead of two, in the sonata-type exposition. Though the virtuosity of the clarinet is still very much in evidence, there is a lot of room for charming interplay between all three instruments. The Adagio with its long, graceful melody for clarinet and cello is followed by an Andantino in smartly syncopated quarter-notes. The Allegro finale, with its tricky metrical changes from 6/8 to 2/4 in fast sixteenth notes with a brief excursion in 9/8, ends in a spirited dash to the finish. The superb sense of ensemble in this performance is nowhere more evident than here."
- Audio Video Club of Atlantay, July 2009
... performance is quite exquisite'
"The music is simple and focused; romantic and beautiful, yet subdued with a sober logic. One will never find any Lisztian fanaticism in the modest yet superior style of Johannes Brahms. Here we have Hideaki Aomori on the clarinet, Joshua Pierce on the piano, and Daniel Barrett on the cello. The performance is quite exquisite. These are great chamber players and this is great chamber music. The sound is constantly fresh and the poetry of the music is made quite clear and integral. The best way to get to know these works (other than the ideal situation of a live performance, perhaps by the same ensemble) is through a recording such as this."
"One important aspect of these works is that, like many of Brahms's chamber works, they inherently adopt the proportions of orchestral compositions. Though the intimacy of these pieces is undeniable, the power of the individual players and the stormy dramaticism of the music almost tricks one into thinking s/he is hearing an entire orchestra, or at the very least there is an illusion that an orchestra is constantly on the verge of emerging. In other words, there is no restraint of an audacious yet tender musicality in these chamber works that would differentiate them from the composer's orchestral works. There is no difference save for the physical reduction of the sound produced by 3 players as opposed to 60 or 70."
The credit, in the end, for this poetic transcendence from a few players to an infinite invisible orchestra goes to the excellence of the performance. They play not with the music in front of them but with the soul of the music within them. We do not think of glorified musical phrases or systematic tricks but plain and simple poetry. We are given real heart and, as precious and impressionable listeners, we find the experience agreeable. Study and knowledge is not the object here."
-Thomas Healy, Classical Voice of New England
NY Empire Trio '...effect was rollicking'
" ...alert and energetic account of the Haydn Trio in D major Hob. XV:16 ... The effect was rollicking.
"... the premiere of Fanfare for Obama (by Roumi Petrova), a brief celebratory scherzo that concludes with allusions to The Star-Spangled Banner ... nice topical inclusion and expertly played.
"...a reading of unusual interest (Dvorak, ...Dumky... Trio)... Unlike the rather generic treatment that this work often receives, this performance underscored the disjunctive elements of dumka's unique form, highlighting the individual character of each succeeding section...
-THE STRAD MAGAZINE - April 2009
'A Very Captivating Performance by New York Empire Trio'
"The concert began with a brilliant performance of a brilliant work. Composer Franz Joseph Haydn is well known for his wit and shimmering textures, which are often filled with trill effects and impassioned figuration. His piano trios are most often dominated by the piano part, and the Trio in D (hob 16) is no exception. Fortunately for the audience, and for this composer's legacy, the New York Empire Trio sports one the finest pianists around, Joshua Pierce. The work begins with the piano demonstrating every facet of brilliance, like the flashings of a crystal splashed with light. But never underestimate the great emotion in Haydn's music which requires consistent high energy from the performers. The work was again well-served as violinist Hristo Popov joins in with the main theme, which he expressed with clarity and crispness. As mentioned before, the piece often comes across as a concerto for piano with the violin and cello accompanying. At first the cello is given the duty of a supportive role, which cellist Kalin Ivanov fulfilled with energy and polish, but when given the chance, he performed Haydn's thematic music with great spirit and depth of tone. In total the New York Empire trio shows a fortunate combination of talent and temperament, tone, panache and musical depth.
Sergei Rachmaninoff's Trio 'Elégiaque' was a smart contrast in historic style and mood from the Haydn. Written when the composer was only nineteen years old, this one-movement work gave the trio's string players a chance to shine. Waves of romantic melody contrasted with the clean thematic bursts of Haydn's music. The work relies on these repeated waves of energy and passion to delineate the form of the work, which is a very affecting device, especially when played with such intense emotion as was demonstrated by the musicians this night. The elegy evolves into sweeping highs and lows and the strings were offered the chance to lead. Mr. Popov and Mr. Ivanov offered an impressive range of emotion and dynamic contrast while expressing the intense and open-hearted emotions of Rachmaninoff's music. A final unified passage resolves to a low ebb in the piano, effectively performed by Mr. Pierce, before the final funeral march. In these passages the trio demonstrated artistic range in direct contrast to the bright opening of the concert. A very captivating performance.
The final piece before intermission was an original work by Bulgarian composer Roumi Petrova. Her 'Eastern Connection' was sincerely made via the energetic performance this work received. A fine performance often indicates a well-composed piece, and that was certainly the case here. Ms. Petrova's work gave the trio ample opportunity to show off their myriad talents. The work presented musical passages which included effective lyricism, building waves of contrapuntal imitation, exciting rhythmic climaxes, literal foot stomping passion and a sense of organic cohesion. The audience greeted it with enthusiasm.
The second half of the program began with another work from Ms. Petrova, this time a piece titled 'Fanfare for Obama'. This reviewer had the opportunity to introduce it and was glad of the result. Her 'fanfare' presented, true to it's dedication, positive uplifting themes, heroic melodies and pulsating rhythms all unifying to express a hopeful message. It is a short bright and happy piece and gave the performers an opportunity to demonstrate another facet of their musicianship.
To close, The New York Empire Trio chose Antonin Dvorak's Piano trio in E Minor 'the Dumky'. This is the last and best known of Dvorak's piano trios and is one of the great works of this literature. Written at the end of the composer's national period, it is suffused with simple natural forms and folk-style original melodies. True to the definition of 'Dumky', which is 'fleeting thought', the work presents a vast range of musical expression. It is one of those works with which a lesser group of players can fall flat. It takes great energy and musicality to perform, they can never let up, and I am happy to report that the audience did not lose attention for a single second.
All put together this program was a very impressive introduction to this group of players. The cellist, Kalin Ivanov, showed that he is happy to support the texture of the music as an accompanist to his fellows, but when called upon can accept a powerful leading role. Hristo Popov displayed an ability to express both pyrotechnic flash and tender expressiveness. Joshua Pierce presented the talent to lead a major ensemble in a form such as a concerto and also to access recesses of deep emotion. They all displayed one of the finer and less common instincts of the good chamber musician, i.e. the ability to nimbly move from foreground to background and all the subtle layers in between. Cheers to the New York Piano trio and the lucky audience they left behind.
-Christopher Kaufman - Kaufman Productions, CHIRON Performing Arts
NY Empire Trio '...confident pianism from Pierce.'
Bulgarian Virtuosi Artists, as a finale to their 10th Anniversary season, presented an excellent concert by the New York Empire Trio, including works by their composer-in-residence, Roumi Petrova (b.1970), along with trios of Haydn, Rachmaninoff, and Dvorák. The performers, who have received numerous accolades individually, communicate a natural rapport and polish, which will undoubtedly grow through their upcoming tours. (New Yorm Empire Trio - Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Jan. 31, 2009.
From the opening phrases of Haydn's Trio in D, Hob. XV:16, the musicians exuded intensity, with bracing tempo and spirit. Much musical leadership came from the pianist, Joshua Pierce, who, with the lid up on the hall piano, sounded at times like a concerto soloist. While it was refreshing to have the focus on the piano, a half-stick lid might have improved balance for the strings. One felt throughout the evening that Popov could have taken the reins more, and where excellent cellist Ivanov came to the fore, it was a joy.
In Rachmaninoff's Trio Élégiaque in G Minor, next, the strings seemed more warmed up and in full bloom. The performance was again impassioned and unified, with each instrument shining individually. Pierce's fistfuls of notes showed command and style.
Bulgarian composer Roumi Petrova had her Trio in C Minor, ...Eastern Connection,... performed next. Filled with evocations of folk music (and the occasional Bachian strain), its playful accentuations and dance-like energy brought to mind Bartok's folk inspired music. It was performed with gusto.
After intermission came the premiere of Petrova's ...Fanfare for Obama,... expressing the composer's excitement for the new U.S. President in a somewhat Coplandesque voice. The work incorporated American melody and optimism and was played with vigor.
Dvorák's ...Dumky... Trio in E Minor, Op. 90 finished the concert on a high, including some hauntingly beautiful playing from the strings and more rousing, confident pianism from Pierce. An encore of Haydn's famous ...Gypsy Rondo... capped off a fine evening.
-Rorianne Schrade - New York Concert Review, Spring 2009
NY Empire Trio '... sweeping and bold'
"The New York Empire Trio was founded by three musicians with renowned experience and talent. They perform a wide repertoire of classics and recent chamber compositions. Collectively, these musicians, Hristo Popov on violin, Kalin Ivanov on cello, and Joshua Pierce on piano, have won international competitions, recorded for the finest record labels, performed with orchestras in Europe, Russia, and the United States, and performed on television and radio. The New York Empire Trio also teaches chamber music through classes at universities and schools in specialized programs. In the coming summer 2009, the New York Empire Trio will tour Europe and appear in debut concerts in Washington, DC and in Carnegie Hall. (Assistance of Press Notes). Tonight they performed in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, a more intimate setting.
The Haydn Trio in D opened with crisp musicality and refined style. Kalin Ivanov's cello was slow and elegant, as the 'Andantino piu tosto' drew out the theme with delicacy and poignancy. The 'Vivace assai movement' began seamlessly, with playful, frolicking rhythm. Rachmaninoff's Élégiaque Trio was soulful and exuded a sense of urgency. Hristo Popov's violin added a waterfall of scintillating notes. Before tonight's intermission, one more work was presented by this tightly synchronized and beautifully blended trio of artists. Roumi Petrova's Trio in C minor was created with Eastern European dance dervish, deep string effects, and exotic elements. The three movements, called 'Homecoming', 'Transformations', and 'Frolicksome', also included melancholy passages that build to punctuated percussion, jazzy intonation, and staccato precision. Themes evolved with lyrical repetition, and Joshua Pierce, on piano, added crescendos of notes with vibrancy and richness. This Trio has an organic energy that flows through its presentation.
Roumi Petrova's Fanfare for Obama was premiered after intermission, and my mind conjured an image of morning sunshine and spiritual joy. Mr. Pierce played with rambunctious enthusiasm, and the work was ornamented with flourishes and fanfare. Dvorák's Dumsky Trio has about 17 partial movements, encompassed in 7 unique movements. It begins with magical momentum, soon swirling like a waltz. Violin, cello, and piano chase each other, echoing and merging thematic sequences. A mournful melody is introduced, before Mr. Ivanov plays the 'Poco Adagio' in solo cello relief. Mr. Pierce added random piano effects, as the three musicians ended the 'Vivace' like frenzied furies. The 'Andante' opened with deep strings, that showcased the piano in an introspective theme. The cello deepened in 'Vivace non troppo', while later the trio created an ethereal mood. The tempo quickened in 'Allegretto scherzando', and eventually the music spins again in waltz-like waves. Dumsky Trio ended with a romantic, elongated cello, merging with the sweeping and bold violin and piano. Kudos to the New York Empire Trio for the Grand Finale Concert of their 10th Anniversary Season at Weill Recital Hall.
-Roberta on the Arts - January 31, 2009
'...quite a novel Gershwin disc'
"The placement of the little-played Second Rhapsody at the beginning of the program signals the kind of Gershwin recording this is going to be: the work, of which Gershwin himself was proud, is perhaps his most "classical" work harmonically, despite its outward similarities to the better known Rhapsody in Blue that preceded it. Pianist Joshua Pierce makes a good case for this work in his extensive notes, from which even Gershwin devotees will learn something new. As he points out, it didn't arise in circumstances at all similar to those than engendered Rhapsody in Blue, it was film music, for a now-lost film, and it marked the first major orchestral composition to appear in a sound film. Pierce's notes are replete with formal analysis in addition to providing historical background... Pierce finds "restlessness" in the shifting tempos and melodies of this [Rhapsody In Blue], which is a fresh way to look at it, and the complexities of the I Got Rhythm Variations also fare well in his careful reading... This is quite a novel Gershwin disc, and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra does better at realizing the aims of Pierce and conductor than one might have reasonably expected. Recommended."
-AllMusic Guide - May 2009
'...one ivory tinkler with a whole lot of George Gershwin in his soul.'
"American pianist Joshua Pierce, with assistance from British conductor Kirk Trevor and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, shows that he's one ivory tinkler with a whole lot of George Gershwin in his soul. The result, entitled 'This is Gershwin,' comprises all the composer's music for piano and orchestra, including Rhapsody in Blue, Second Rhapsody, Concerto in F, and the 'I Got Rhythm' Variations. Particularly with the Concerto, Pierce dug into facsimile editions as research for this project. More than that, his super-smooth legato and intuitive understanding of Gershwin's sensational rhythms serve him well here (And that's an understatement!)
There's not a dull moment in Rhapsody in Blue, a work that cut its way through the classical firmament in a shining path in 1924 with a heady admixture of blues, jazz, and Afro-Cuban rhythms in a classical form that it wears lightly and knowingly. With a pronounced feeling for color, Joshua Pierce relishes Gershwin's dazzling chromatic writing and edgy harmonic sequences to the fullest. Those rhythms ' and cross-rhythms - are written large here, and Trevor and the Slovak musicians catch the infection in an orchestral arrangement that has all the visceral impact of a jazz band in its writing for the drums and percussion.
Pierce rightly surmises that restlessness is the salient feature of the piece, as melodies bloom luxuriantly, then splinter into fragments. Rubato ' flexibility in the use of changing tempos ' is another hallmark of Gershwin's style that gets appropriate attention here. And of course, Pierce's famed legato and his ability to support and sustain a beautiful melody get a work out in that broadly stated slow interlude that seems to embody the very soul of the blues.
Gershwin's Second Rhapsody (1931), which actually leads off the program, has always seemed to be overshadowed, perhaps unfairly, by the earlier rhapsody. Yet it is in many ways even more sophisticated harmonically, making more use of decidedly Latin rhythms in addition to the blues/jazz mix. With its studied out-of-time staccato rhythms in the left hand, later taken up by the orchestra, the work starts off in what Gershwin himself termed a 'rhapsody in rivets.' The form of the work lies somewhere between variations and continuous development, and indeed the big melody of the opening movement, heard later throughout the piece, makes the listener wish it could go on forever and ever.
I haven't said anything yet about the Concerto in F. Pounding rhythms, gigantic orchestral tremolos, and flavorful interplay between soloist and orchestra are the salient features in this 'jazz concerto' which uses Charleston rhythms occasionally and to good effect. Stunning, fantastic timbres and rhythms take the spotlight over melody here, but when the melodies emerge, as in the languorous repeated-note motif that the soloist transforms into a gorgeous melody in the opening movement, the enhanced lyricism is really welcome. Pierce goes out in a blaze of glory in the 'I Got Rhythm' Variations with its light-hearted, syncopated pentatonic tune that seemingly could spawn endless variations beyond the choice dozen-or-so that Gershwin gives us. Too reverent an approach would have made the piece sound more like 'I Have Rhythm,' if you get my drift. With Joshua Pierce taking the lead, there's never any danger of that!"
- Atlanta Audio Society - March 2009
'...found myself admiring and then starting to love his forthright interpretations'
"Pierce is a no nonsense performer...the music is left to speak for itself...[Pierce's playing] is always direct and fully reliable...Pierce demonstrates a powerful approach to this music. Climaxes are strongly stated...[Pierce's playing] is quite excellent overall...I found myself admiring and then starting to love his forthright interpretations. Notes and recording leave nothing to be desired."
-American Record Guide - November / December 2008
'...ease and clarity of sound'
"...Seriousness and breadth rightly give way to lyrical fantasy in Pierce's interpretation of the C minor Impromptu...Pierce's singing legato fully emerges in a fluid, flexible account of the A-flat...I appreciate the concluding F minor for Pierce's crisp articulation and genuine feeling for the composer's syncopated touches."
- Gramophone - November 2008
'Pierce brings a formidable, fluent technique'
"...this assemblage of the eight impromptus of 1826 has Joshua Pierce playing them as though each set of four were a sonata in its own right, an emotional unity... Pierce brings a formidable, fluent technique to these familiar keyboard staples, emphasizing the big Gs of the opening C Minor Impromptu and making short work of the triplet runs in the pungent No. 2 in E-flat Major. The evolving melos of the G-flat Major Impromptu Pierce accomplishes by emphasizing the bass trill in the manner of the posthumous B-flat Major Sonata. The last of the D. 899 set, the A-flat Major, has Pierce relishing its deliberate ambiguity of modality... The C-sharp Minor middle section brings out rich colors from the Pierce palette, and the da capo elicits all sorts of liquid ripples and gurgles that must have their roots in the many an Austrian outdoor excursion...[In the] F Minor Impromptu...Pierce applies a soothing legato to the filigree of the D-flat Major/Minor Trio section, impelling it forward in the manner of a real improvisation, trill and arpeggiated triplets quite pronounced...The piu Presto coda [in the F Minor Allegro scherzando] proves a moment Mr. Pierce obviously anticipated with his customary zeal."
- Audiophile Audition - October 2008
'...one of my favorite pianists'
"Joshua Pierce has become one of my favorite pianists in recent years, and the next time someone asks me why, I'm just going to refer them to this disc of Schubert impromptus (Opp. 90 and 142), which Pierce plays with the perfect balance of inwardness and emotion. You can't play Schubert well without understanding his strange and tragic personality, and on this disc you get the feeling that the composer is being channeled through the pianist. Is there higher praise than that?"
- CD HotList for Libraries - October 2008
'...ease and clarity of sound'
"Liszt was a vastly prolific composer whose output for piano and orchestra went well beyond the two oft-performed concertos. Pianist Joshua Pierce joins forces with conductor Paul Freeman and the Moscow State Philharmonic orchestra in this selection of less-frequently performed works of that genre. Pierce flies through even the most difficult passages with apparent ease and clarity of sound. Pierce has proved through his extensive discography that he is a highly skilled pianist, possessing ample technique to deliver precise performances of everything from Bach through Cage. This recording of Liszt is no different."
- Brownell, All Music Guide, 2008
'Pierce's forthright virtuosity... '
"Joshua Pierce's stylish elan and genuine instinct for Lisztian bravura certainly serve him well in these scores...The Hunagrain Fantasy's unaccompanied piano passages convey both forward drive and rhetorical breathing room, while the Wanderer Fantasy's outer section dialogues are firm, decisive and, as the saying goes, 'full of beans'...Pierce's forthright virtuosity [in the Malediction]...Lisztians will appreciate the informative, well written booklet-notes."
- Jed Distler, Gramophone, August 2008
Pierce delivers very exhilarating performances'
"Both of the previous reviews [of Pierce's Liszt Piano Concertos release] were favorable, and I can only echo the superlatives used before...Pierce delivers very exhilarating performances [of the Hungarian Fantasy and Rhapsodie]...The Russian orchestras' energy is quite in keeping with the kind of pianism Pierce displays. If you enjoyed the Liszt concertos, this makes a perfect companion."
- Harrington, American Record Guide, July/August 2008
Pierce's Schubert charms and thrills
"This new recording of the Impromptus, Op. 90 and 142, Volume 2 of a projected 3-volume Schubert series by pianist Joshua Pierce, is a genuine delight. In these eight pieces, probably the composer's most instantly recognized and best-loved works for the keyboard, Pierce shows a very natural rubato, an appropriately affective use of the pedals, and a keen feeling for the rhythm and flow of the music.
Too many performers trade on the most obvious aspect of Franz Schubert's romanticism, the soft, sweetly feminine lyricism, so highly expressive and poetic. But Pierce also captures a wild, manic quality in the music that was also part of the composer's character. The dramatic cadences that interrupt the quicksilver flow of the triplets in the E-flat Impromptu, Op. 90, No.2, show that Pierce really knows when to 'take it big' (as they used to say in the movies), a flair for the dramatic that he no doubt honed in the course of many memorable duo-piano recitals with his partner Dorothy Jonas.
The thing you need to know about the Impromptu, a form that Schubert seems to have created, is that the name implies an inspired improvisation. Considering the fact that some of these musical gems have a playing time of 8 or 10 minutes and wander considerably beyond the cozy bounds of their ABA ternary form, that's stretching the idea of 'working on a riff' quite a bit. But the impression of spontaneity has to be there, and in that respect Joshua Pierce's interpretations are as satisfying as one could possibly desire.
From the beginning, Schubert's contemporaries (Robert Schumann, for one) often felt that his Four Impromptus, Op. 90 were a sonata in all but name, although the composer insisted otherwise. There is at least a general sense of unity here, and Pierce chooses to emphasize their family resemblance rather than play it down. Schubert had unusually small hands for a pianist, much smaller than Rachmaninov or Liszt, and he typically compensated for his lack of reach by the very active patterns of triplets, restlessly moving up and down the keyboard, in his music. We hear them as early as the C Minor Impromptu, Op. 90, No.1, in which he tantalizes the ear by a lyrical passage in which full chords in triplets in the left hand leading back to the opening theme play against octave triplets in the right. Impromptus No. 3 in G-flat and 4 in A flat feature stunning arpeggios ' chordal in the former, cascading in the latter ' beneath abundantly flowing lyricism.
The Four Impromptus, Op. 142 are, if anything, even more elaborate and farther ranging than their predecessors. The generous lyricism of No. 3 in B-flat, a set of five variations on Schubert's well-loved 'Romance' from the incidental music for Rosamunde, is the best known of the set, but all are strongly characterized pieces ' certainly in Joshua Pierce's performances. The full-blown romanticism of No. 1 in F Minor, with its fortissimo octaves, contrasts with the delicate figuration of No. 2 in A-flat. No. 4 in F Minor, with its pregnant pauses and leaps and its delicious major-minor alternations, shows yet another characteristic of a composer whose music Pierce obviously relishes immensely."
- Atlanta Audio Society , August 2008
"...spectacular." (Franz Liszt Romantic Works
For Piano And Orchestra , MS 1210)
- Turok's Choice, June 2008
'fabulous technical virtuosity'
"Pierce's own 'fabulous technical virtuosity' is on thrilling display..." (Franz Liszt Romantic Works
For Piano And Orchestra , MS 1210)
- World Magazine, June 2008
'... unflinching boldness'
"Listening to microtonal music is like overhearing a conversation between two people, one sober, the other very drunk. In the more subtle pieces like Hovhanness's "O Lord Bless Thy Mountain", the music drifts away, then teasingly returns; in most of the works the queasiness is front and center. These pioneering experiments by Ohana, Cage, and others would be exotic even without the of-centeredness: the microtonality makes them much more so. Ives's Three Quarter Tone Pieces, the grand-daddy of the genre, are included. Whether you can enjoy this repertory depends on how far you can "stretch your ears", as Ives would say. The American Center for Microtonal Music is the pioneer of this surreal stuff, and Joshua Pierce plays it with unflinching boldness."
- American Record Guide, 2008
Pierce is fully up to the virtuoso challenge and delivers the full Romantic goods.
"This tour de force of Italian and Russian composers is a catalyst for conversation and a pleasure to the ears. All three works are brilliant showpieces for piano and orchestra. In this much anticipated reissue, we hear Joshue Piece's bravura performance of the famed Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganin, the work in which Rachmaninov essentially invented the "Hollywood Sound" in the ultra-romantic 18th Variation. Alfredo Casella, whom record companies continually threaten to "really" discovery, shows an exuberant, brassy, neo-Baroque style in his exciting Partita. Joshua Pierce, a graduate of Juilliard has performed all over the world and is one of the most prolific recording artists in recent history."
- HBDirect.com, 2008
Pierce is fully up to the virtuoso challenge and delivers the full Romantic goods.
"Concert pianist Pierce has an immense repertory and has recorded widely for many different labels. His MSR recordings so far have covered Liszt, Brahms, Schubert, and the five Beethoven Piano Concertos. This fascinating program brings together four Liszt works that epitomize exotic, dark and romantic elements in his many compositions and arrangements. He was the ultimate virtuoso of his time, creating keyboard works that made the fullest use of the capabilities of the newly-enhanced concert grand piano. All of these works pull out all the stops in achieving the sort of crowd-pleasing effect the composer-pianist strove for. ... Schubert's large-scale Wanderer Fantasy is already a daunting work to perform - Schubert himself avoided it. But this just challenged Liszt, who elaborated on and ornamented the Fantasy into different versions for solo piano, for four hands, and this "Symphonic Poem for Piano and Orchestra." It takes Schubert's already stirring main theme, which carries thruout the work, and ramps it up to the Lisztian super-virtuoso level - making it actually more exciting and impressive than the original. Pierce is fully up to the virtuoso challenge and delivers the full Romantic goods."
- John Sunier, Audiophile Audition, 2008
"This remarkable series proves once again that "veteran" composers still have a place among newer names! Avant-Garde music aficionados who go back a ways will appreciate hearing the Cage and Riley works in these outstanding performances (yes, that is the very same Joshua Pierce we all know)."
- hbdirect.com, 2008
"Pierce has been an international sensation "
"For years, Joshua Pierce has been an international sensation performing a vast repertoire, with the world's greatest orchestras. This recital featuring composers from America, Russia, Switzerland, The Czech Republic and Spain, is a world unto itself! Here, Mr. Pierce explores works that are based on quarter-tonal harmony and other unusual harmonies." (Ear Gardens - Music From the American Festival Of Microtonal Music: PITCH 200209)
- hbdirect.com, 2008
"(Liszt) worth my time"
"I've never been a big fan of Liszt, but I'm a huge fan of pianist Joshua Pierce, and danged if hasn't convinced me (mostly) that the Rhapsodie Espagnol is worth my time. As for Schubert's
Wanderer Fantasy, no convincing was needed. Both Russian orchestras are excellent." (Liszt: Romantic Works For Piano & orchestra MSR 1210)
- CD Hotlist, New Releases For Libraries, 2008
"Pierce's skill and polish are never in doubt"
"Joshua Pierce is a talented pianist ... [he] is a knowing guide to the B-flat major sonata Pierce's approach is rhetorical, constantly questioning and probing. He finds power and lyricism side by side in a fluent reading of the andante. The scherzo is bright and breezy. The finale makes a strong impression Pierce's skill and polish are never in doubt ... the rare and diminutive Allegretto in C minor is a welcome inclusion and is played contemplatively by Pierce. There is a deliberate confidence to Pierce's performances of the Moments Musicaux proper, with pathos beneath the beauty and dark colours very much to the fore. This is impressive Schubert playing, with judicious pedalling, vivid contrast in tone colour, finely tuned dynamic control and a natural rubato. The recorded sound is sympathetically warm this is a disc worth hearing, and taster of what may prove to be a valuable Schubert series."
- MusicWeb International , January 2008
"... mind and heart to every phrase"
"[Joshua Pierce] applied his mind and heart to every phrase. Nothing is straightforward; everything is interpreted, and there's a reason behind every gesture. It is nice to hear such thoughtful playing..[Pierce's Schubert] sounds like Schubert, not Beethoven. It is still sweet-natured and easy-going rather than temperamental. Tempos are not ponderous...in the Moments Musicaux Mr. Pierce phrases things beautifully, and there's even some atmosphere - some poetry to add to the meaningful prose..."
- American Record Guide, November / December 2007
"... convey undeniable enthusiasm, energy and sincerity"
"Pierce's interpretations of Schubert's B-flat Sonata and Moments Musicaux convey undeniable enthusiasm, energy and sincerity...[a] gifted, charismatic pianist...Pierce's driving left hand generates gripping momentum in [Moment] No.5. Note, too, the eloquent lyricism he brings to No.4's Trio and the second and sixth pieces...Simplicity and beauty also distinguish his well proportioned account of the Allegretto. MSR's excellent engineering accurately mirrors the dulcert, singing sonority that Pierce carries with him from concert to concert and piano to piano"
- Gramophone, October 2007
"... emotional depth ... Brilliant"
One of the greatest challenges any pianist can take on is that of presenting the music of Schubert in a way that gets at the emotional depth beneath his simplicity, without resorting to exaggerated romantic bombast. Joshua Pierce does so as well as any on this fine program... Brilliant."
- CD HotList, September 2007
"... distinquished ... dramatic"
"After his terrific set of Beethoven concertos, it's no surprise that Joshua Pierce offers a distinguished Schubert disc (MS 1204). The B-flat Sonata (D.960) is lyrically played, but with great rhythmic acuity. Pierce takes chances in response to the dramatic possibilities of Schubert's phrases, all of which work effortlessly. The disc includes the Allegretto, D.915 and an impressive performance of the six Moment Musicaux, Op.94 (D.780)."
- Turok's Choice, October 2007
"always elegant, and not overbearing ..."
"Joshua Pierce is an excellent pianist [with a] lightness of touch that doesnt preclude a sonorous tone and a flexible, even playful approach to phrasing that never pulls the line out of shape. This is evident right from the start, in the juvenile concerto [E-flat major, WoO4]. Pierce does everything he can for this music without overselling it; his passagework is exceptionally clean, and he employs a Mozartean touch, always elegant, and not overbearing in the chordal sequences. The Romance Cantabile is a snippet of what might have become an interesting sinfonia concertante for piano, flute, and bassoon...and Pierce certainly holds his own against the likes of Aimard, Brendel, and Richter. As for the standard concertos, Pierces work is consistent... He and conductor Rezucha maintain tempos at a good clip...but they dont rush the music. By the Second Concerto, Pierce is developing some Beethovenian heft when called for, particularly in the first-movement cadenza...Through the remainder of the cycle, Pierce plays with energy, substance, and fullness, without feeling that, because this is Beethoven, he must hammer the klavier (a fate that often befalls the Emperor). The Slovak State Philharmonic pulls through professionally, with the conductor insisting on crisp playing in terms of tempo and articulation...Salzman contributes smart liner notes...if youre curious about the rarities, Pierce makes a fine case for them, and his performances of the Big Five stand high among other recent efforts."
- October, 2007, Fanfare
"Golden hammer .... Silver bells"
"Two generations ago this all-Schubert recital would have been one by Artur Schnabel. Pierce plays the posthumous B-flat Sonata (1828) in a literalist, non-pedantic style, with a fine sense of the dramatic rumbles and pauses that afflict Schubert's pointed thoughts on emotional loss. If Pierce's playing reminds me of anyone else's, it is Claude Frank. ... (he) handles the agitated triplets and harmonic shifts in the first movement smoothly and on a large scale ... (he) evokes a high, tense singing-line, and he projects the intricate left-hand bass harmonies without forcing them.
... Plastic rhythm and a veritable array of piano colors, always delaying by ever-devious means the resolution of the music into the tonic B-flat. When Pierce wants the golden hammer, he uses it, only to transform the percussion into silver bells.
The set (1828) of six Musical Moments is likely a publisher's ploy, since the works originally appeared somewhat separately. Pierce applies a conscious yodel effect for the opening C Major, a pert dialogue that wanders between major and minor as far afield as E Minor. Loveliness for the A-flat moment, perhaps the most innately lyrical of the set. Pregnant pauses, an outburst of passion, and attention to harmonic colors set Pierce's rendition along some fine realizations, not the least of which is that by Rudolf Serkin on CBS."
- Gary Lemco, Audiophile Audition
"... playing that lives up to the 'brillante' name"
"The world of pianistic extravagance is boldly served on this new disc... Each piece has charming music amid the pyrotechnics but what sticks is the audacious manner in which the composers treat the piano as an instrument of grand flourishes and almost breathless buoyancy. No keyboard wallflowers need apply here."
The music exemplifies the kind of opulent writing composers were supplying virtuosoes in the day - either themselves or others. Mendelssohn' Rondo Brillante in E flat major Op 29 has typical brightness and thematic poetry, which reams of glistening material to keep the soloist happily occupied. The piece eschews the big contrasts of tempo and atmosphere that the disc's other repertoire embraces. But it is a delightful concoction. So are the slightly more expansive creations by Czerny, Hummel, Reinecke, and Weber...On a series of more playful notes is Hummel's Introduction and Rondo Brillante in A major which abounds in energetic, heavily embroidered writing of enormous rhythmic vitality. In Weber's Konzerstucke in F minor the pianist engages in vibrant conversations with the orchestra, even as it scampers by way of octave leaps and perpetual-motion ascents and descents of tireless intrigue. Most sweeping of all is Reinecke's Konzerstucke in G minor with lyrical nods to Mendelssohn and Schumann...
Joshua Pierce, once admired mainly for his advocacy of new music, is an inexhaustible champion of these luxurious showpieces. He has the facility to tame every technical beast and clarify the thickest textures...
- David Rosenburg, Gramophone. July 2007
"... challenging, occasionally puzzling, but never dull"
"This recording of Schubert's final piano sonata and some smaller works was made in 1996 but not released until 2007. ... "There are lots of mysterious pauses in Schubert," reads the booklet, and Pierce makes the most of them, leapfrogging the Romantic era and making Schubert into something of a troubled modern. The tension in the first movement's opening melody precedes the ominous left-hand trill at the end of the first phrase; Pierce takes a good deal of time in the melody itself, and treats it not as a moment of repose but as a source of momentum. The first movement as a whole is fraught with forward motion interrupted by passages of near stasis; the end of the F major second subject area, especially, has an unusually fitful quality (sample the movement between the four- and five-and-a-half minute marks to hear what's going on). With a full repeat of the first movement, the rest of the work can't quite stand up to this ambitious beginning; the breezy scherzo seems out of place. But several of the smaller pieces that round out the album benefit from Pierce's effort to turn Schubert into a radical; the 6 Moments Musicaux, D. 780, which were in fact radical, are fresh and arresting as Pierce lingers over their mood shifts. There has been a flood of unorthodox recordings of the big Schubert sonatas around the time this came out -- perhaps there is something about the underground quality of his music that appeals to an age mistrustful of large public spectacles. Here is one more, challenging, occasionally puzzling, but never dull."
- James Manheim, allmusic.com
"Glittery, elegant, bold ..."
"Pianist Joshua Pierce has assembled a quintet of virtuoso concert works by a diverse set of Romantic composers, a series of inflated, grandiose gestures not particularly anchored by profound ideas, but certainly demonstrative of digital prowess. He begins with Carl Reinecke's stormy Konzerstueck in G Minor, which at several turns reminds me of Schumann's Introduction and Allegro, Op. 134. The coda alone expounds on about three Chopin etudes. The 1814 Introduction and Rondo by Hummel typifies his lyrical and bravura style, one that makes a potent bridge from the Mozartian galant idiom to that of Chopin. In terms of instrumental colors and harmonic modulation, it displays an inventive, captivating charm. The rondo-sonata has all kinds of flute and horn flourishes, col legno strings, and quicksilver piano runs that move from A to C and then E Major. The Chopin Krakowiak seems a close cousin. Glittery, elegant, bold, the piece has makes a cumulative effect of richly ornamental power. Carl Czerny, the noted creator of innumerable piano etudes, has in his Op. 255 a kind of bel canto vehicle for piano and orchestra, rife with 32nd and 64th notes, a long orchestral tutti, and countless, frequent modulations of key. We hear vague echoes of Chopin's E Minor Concerto, surrounded by Czerny's idiosyncratic bravura. Rezucha and Pierce adopt a rather brisk tempo for Weber's ever-fascinating Konzertstueck in F Minor (1821) - the prototype for Liszt's A Major Concerto.
"Another bel canto excursion for piano that modulates to A-flat, the piece allows Pierce to indulge in every kind of rhetorical curlicue and arpeggiated syncope. The music, long a favorite of Casadesus and Arrau, finds in Pierce a passionate advocate of its several labyrinthine episodes, including a pungent march in C Major. His huge glissando is worth the price of admission. Frisky excursions into F Major, C Major, and D-flat lead to a festively jubilant conclusion, kitchen-sink music of the first order. The 1834 Rondo by Mendelssohn first had its slick beauties revealed to me via Peter Katin. Fashioned out of a guiding 6/8 motif, the piece proceeds as a series of flurries and meditations, the latter in G Minor. Exuberant and self-assured, the Rondo emanates a jaunty air as it cascades to a fiery conclusion that has Pierce exhibiting powerful 16th-note triplets and octaves in regal fashion. "
- Gary Lemco, Audiophile Audition
"Polished and often fearless"
"The American's bravura is polished and often fearless ...this more-than-complete set has much to offer...a technically stellar, exuberant and often illuminating traversal...[the Concerto in E-flat] is well played by Pierce, expressive yet keeping within Classical parameters...[in the Concerto No.2]
Pierce is largely just as impressive, particularly in the first two works. The soloist enters with bright vivacity in No. 2 (properly placed first), the fleet tempo underlining the youthful impetuosity of the young Beethoven, Pierce's playing is energized and brilliant with nice shade in the cadenzas.
The soloist is equally sensitive in the Adagio...Pierce brings wit to the rather oddball original Rondo of No. 1, bringing out the insistent staccato humour and finessing the mercurial shifts...In the First Concerto proper, Pierce's light-fingered articulation is well suited to early Beethoven and again the cadenza is superb, spun out with sparkling virtuosity and phrasing that leads the ear on...In the slow movement, Pierce floats the main theme in a natural way...[the] fast tempo and vivid articulation are scintillating...an exhilarating performance...[In No.3] the cadenza is again dazzling...The Largo is refined and elegant...[Pierce shows] speed and brilliance...[In the G major] the playing is faultless...[In the Emperor] Pierce is at his finest, with fleet yet bracingly vital and vividly characterized solo playing. [In this set] the performances are never less than involving, technically commanding and delightful."
- Lawrence A Johnson, Gramophone, June 2007
"I have listened to this set over and over, and each time, I hear more of the nuance in Pierce's playing (of Beethoven), especially in Piano Concerto #4. And the Finale of the First Concerto, has a clarity to it I have not heard before. I love this set. It's lyrically exhilarating! An amazing series. an amazing CD"
- March 19, 2007, Amazon.com
"I have listened to many versions of the Brahms first and Joshua Pierce gives a powerful performance The same is true with the Burleske. Pierce's performance caused me to go back and listen to it several times. This is my top choice for Strauss' Burleske."
- E. Smith "ES classical ear", January 1, 2007, Amazon.com
Pierce has Schubert's number
"Pianist Joshua Pierce gets off to a great start in Vol. 1 of what promises to be a series of Franz Schubert's piano music with the Sonata in B-flat Major, D.960 and the Moments Musicaux, D.780, with the sprightly Allegretto, D.915 as attractive filler. He approaches the opening movement of the sonata in a straightforward manner, preferring to capture the abundant beauties en passant, without too much fuss over the pauses that follow the remarkable trill in the bass that we hear from time to time, as if the piano were compelled to testify under oath to memories too painful to recall. In this movement, the melodies are deceptively simple, at first just a cluster of notes around the home key. But what Schubert does in developing them is something else. How often merely a slight change in metre or a striking key shift, often without modulation, will change the entire mood of a passage! There is a fatalistic current underlying the most innocent melodies ñ my pet name for it is "the Schubert Undertow" ñ and Pierce is sensitive to its presence.
The slow movement is a solemn prayer ñ with an anguished moment of reflection before the final solace. The Scherzo is a quicksilver Allegro Vivace with a curious little humpbacked dance as trio. The finale is fast and furious, belying the qualifying phrase phrase "ma non troppo" which refers basically to the tentative, hesitant nature of the opening figure. The high dynamic level selected by Joshua Pierce for this movement and the steady tempos he employs throughout the work are in marked contrast to the more introspective approach used by Andrew Rangell on Bridge 9153, which I previously reviewed in this column, and, at 40:01 his timing for the sonata is seven minutes quicker. Both approaches, I should add, are valid.
In Schubert's Moments Musicaux, a landmark in the Romantic genre of poetic character pieces, striking changes in mood and mode prevail in four of the six pieces. All these pieces have distinct characters, from Moment #1 which unfolds like a gradually evolving walk through nature to the solemnity of Moment #6, a nocturne in all but name, but one in which the prevailing mood has more to do with midnight than the charm of twilight. Moment #2, leisurely and introspective, has an anguished outcry in the reprise of the B section, while the overall ferocity of Moment #5 does not abate until the very end. Moment #4 is harmonically subtle and dancelike. Moment #3, often played as an encore, has a lot in common with Schubert's "Hungarian Melody." A winsome collection, these "Musical Moments"!
- New Classik Reviews, Atlanta Audio Society March, 2007
Joshua Pierce's arpeggios and scales powerfully propel (Young Apollo) to its rapturous conclusion
"Kleos new release with Joshua Pierce (Music for Piano and Orchestra, KLEOS CLASSICS KL5137) is well programmed....Joshua Pierce's arpeggios and scales powerfully propel (Young Apollo) to its rapturous conclusion...this is a fine recording of a work that receives too little appreciation...also impressive is Pierce's eloquent reading of Finzi's Eclogue...(Conductor Kirk) Trevor and Pierce create a true feeling of nobilmente, to borrow Elgar's famous coinage."
- Michael Fine, Fanfare Magazine, July/Aug 2006
" Joshua Pierce is a pianist who need fear no comparison ..."
"That the American pianist, Joshua Pierce is a fine player, is evident from this collection (KLEOS CLASSICS KL5137) and from his biographical information from the booklet and elsewhere. While he is at home with the standard repertoire he has also forged a reputation for contemporary music, John Cage in particular, and more recently, Daron Hagen.
Britten's Young Apollo was composed in 1942 to a commission from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The music portrays the young god in all his hard dazzling splendour. The opening is as icy-cold and brilliant as that of Les Illuminations...A short reflective passage just before the end is sensitively handled by Pierce and the challenging bravura throughout the rest of the piece holds no fears for him. I suspect that Joshua Pierce is perhaps more faithful to the composer's intentions. The work has had very few recordings and this performance is easily good enough to make the disc valuable for this work alone.
The programme is interesting and a welcome change from the usual concerto fare. Joshua Pierce is a pianist who need fear no comparison with the finest and the orchestral support from the two Slovak orchestras led by the English conductor Kirk Trevor is excellent.
- William Hedley, MusicWeb-International.com
"Rachmaninov: Paganini Variations; Respighi: Toccata; Casella: Partita"
"This collection of three somewhat disparate works provides listeners with an energetic revisiting of a standard of the repertoire, as well as an introduction to two splendid works that may not have been heard elsewhere. Accomplished pianist Joshua Pierce joins Anton Nanut and the RTV Symphony Orchestra of Slovenia.
"The Rachmaninov is easily the fastest rendition in memory. While some performers may falter with such ambitious tempi, Pierce thrives. Every note is clearly articulated even in the most bravura passages. Each variation flows naturally into the next and by the last three, Pierce has the listener at the edge of his/her seat wondering if he can keep the fireworks. The RTV Symphony ably keeps the momentum going, although there are occasional intonation issues in the winds, most notably in the 17th variation.
"As an orchestrator, Respighi was a master of variety in color, mood, and evocation. The Toccata for Piano and Orchestra is no exception, making it puzzling why this piece is not heard more frequently. Pierce and the RTV deftly handle the many changes in mood from the grave beginning, to the scintillating and whimsical end sections, and the extended lugubrious, brilliantly executed cello solos.
The outer movements of the Casella Partita for piano and orchestra are rambunctious and bombastic almost to a fault. A lesser pianist may quickly lose the listener's interest, but Pierce manages to pull it off despite the blaring orchestral tuttis. The second-movement Passacaglia is quite different, however, and is extremely heavy and brooding."
- Mike D. Brownell, All Music Guide
Pierce...proves an exciting pianist in classical repertory
"Joshua Pierce...proves an exciting pianist in classical repertory. The fast movements bristle with excitement, giving the strong impression of concert performance...Pierce and company produce some exciting Beethoven. [In the earlier works] Pierce's no-nonsense approach and clear, detached fingerwork make a fine effect. [These recordings] have much to admire..."
- American Record Guide, March / April 2007
"Pierce is impeccable ..."
"Beethoven's complete piano concertos...are strikingly played by Joshua Pierce with involved accompaniments by the Slovak State Philharmonic under Bystrik Rezucha...yet another version of these concertos must offer something special to be competitive, and this set does - Pierce's unceasing energy and his uncanny sense of rhythm. The finest performers manage their accelerandos and ritards so that there is an eventual compensation that evens out the musical flow from time to time. For Pierce, this sort of compensation is constantly at work; it becomes central to his interpretations, which take on tension and excitement accordingly, illuminating this familiar music in an unfamiliar way. Technically, Pierce is impeccable...If your collection does not contain these pieces, the set can serve as a fine introduction; as an alternative to more standard interpretations, it makes a fine second version."
- Turok's Choice, Issue No.183, December 2006
" Pierce plays the hell out of it, yet always tempered with style and grace"
"Rondo Brillant: Early Romantic Works for piano and orchestra (MSR 1196) is an imaginative blend of early romantic works for piano and orchestra, including two pieces, the Reinecke and Czerny, that as far as I know, have never been recorded. The Mendelssohn and Weber pieces are more familiar, and the Hummel Introduction and Rondo Brillant was [also] recorded recently by Howard Shelly for Chandos...There's some imaginative busywork for everyone and Pierce makes of it a heady romp, handily rivaling Shelly in agile fingerwork and leaving sprawled in the dust both Klaus Hellwig on Koch and Rudolf Macudzinski on a Fidelio LP...Pierce simply plays the hell out of it, and his crystal clear tone makes Shelly sound muffled by comparison."
"In the Mendelssohn Rondo Brillant, Pierce once again goes to town - it's an exhilarating affair, yet entirely at the service of the music...Tempermentally he hits just the right note. Indeed, he seems the very model of moderation next to Peter Katin's hectic treatment; and the Hyperion with Stephen Hough comes close...The Reinecke is a real find!..There is much bravura writing for the soloist, yet always tempered with style and grace; though it is the longest piece on the disc, Reinecke never wears out his welcome. Pierce responds with solid tone and an affecting gravitas...This is a major addition to the romantic piano literature."
"Czerny of course was a member of Beethoven's circle, yet the smoldering sentimentality of the Introduction is a foretaste of what will yet come. The more "classical" Czerny stand revealed in the landler rhythm that follows, with it's piquant yodeling effects; yet some of the runs farther in could be taken for Mendelssohn, and Pierce's buoyant approach adds to the fun."
- Steven J. Haller, American Record Guide, Sept/Oct, 2006
"Sheer Visceral Excitement...An exhilarating Tour de force"
"Pierce's freewheeling, heart-on-sleeve approach in the Liszt Three Piano Concertos, proves quite satisfying and he makes of Totentanz (MSR 1154) an exhilarating tour de force, concluding with a whirlwind fugue and a blistering closing salvo...sheer visceral excitement!"
- Steven J. Haller, American Record Guide, Sept/Oct, 2006
"An extroverted pianist, perfect for Liszt's fireworks"
"Having audited Mr. Pierce in the music of Liszt prior (MS 1148), I was already familiar with his digital credentials. Pierce has a big, extroverted technique and temperament, and he likes to throw notes around in the grand manner, a la Liszt style. ... The Pierce E-flat (E-flat Concerto) is bombastic, intimate, and heroic in turn, a nice collaboration all around. ... If the finale has a touch of Mendelssohn pointing to Saint-Saens, it's a healthy frivolity. Pierce turns on his afterburner fireworks for the Totentanz (in D Minor), whose three cadenzas provide him plenty of characterization."
- Gary Lemco , Audiophile Audition
"... dark and chilly intensity, evocative of a storm in progress"
"Pierce and the Slovak State Orchestra, right from the opening bars, demonstrate a dark and chilly intensity, evocative of a storm in progress. ... The playing strives to establish composure, leaving the listener with a sense of calm after the storm. (Joshua Pierce - Music for Piano and Orchestra, KLEOS CLASSICS KL5137)
"There are very few versions of Young Apollo in the catalogues and I admire this stimulating account from Joshua Pierce and the Slovak State Chamber Orchestra under Kirk Trevor.
"No one remembers the ballet Salade but the score to Le Carnaval d'Aix became one of Milhaud's most popular scores. Pierce provides an impressive interpretation that is carefree and high spirited. The playing is outstanding right from the carnival-like festivities of the Le Corso, to the shy and sultry Isabelle, the childlike uncertainly of the Polka, the effervescence of the Cinzio to the Final section that shifts from an unsettling and sombre mood to one of carnival excitement. I especially enjoyed Pierce's interpretation of the penultimate Souvenir de Rio (Tango) section that skilfully moves from cool and refreshing to mature sophistication to carefree juvenility.
"A fascinating and well performed collection that I feel sure I will return to."
- Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International, 2006
Music for Piano and Orchestra - BRITTEN: Young Apollo for piano & string orchestra; MILHAUD: Le Carnaval d'Aix; FINZI: Eclogue for piano & string orchestra; RICHARD STRAUSS: Orchestral Suite from "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme" - Joshua Pierce, piano/ Slovak State Ch. Orch. Zilina/Slovak Radio Symphony Orch. of Bratislava/ Kirk Trevor - Kleos Classics KL5137
"The first thing which struck me about this CD was the creative and non-hackneyed programming; not your usual piano and orchestra disc. Next was the interpretive abilities of the fine pianist behind this CD, Joshua Pierce. He is expert at both standard repertory and contemporary music, but in addition he is a prolific performer who has built up a vast repertory of music which spans all of piano literature.
While the Richard Strauss would be the most familiar work in this program, the other three deserve more hearings and attention than they have received. The two short works by British composers provide a taste of that country's approach to music for piano and strings. The Milhaud of course demonstrates the French touch. It is subtitled a Fantasy for piano and orchestra, and has a dozen very short, dry movements with some wit. Wonder if the pianist was thinking back to his early piano instruction while he was playing the movement titled Le bon et le mauvais tuteur (The good and bad tutor)... Sonics are good and the Slovakian musicians are right on target. An altogether wonderful alternative to the endless Big Piano Concertos.
- John Sunier, Audiophile Audition, 2006
Joshua Pierce's recording of Brahms' second piano concerto: Grandeur and Impulsiveness ...
"First of all, the American pianist, Joshua Pierce was marvelous. He breathed as one with the British conductor Kirk Trevor ... Pierce's playing was beautifully balanced between grandeur and impulsiveness." (Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2, MS1148)
- McVeigh, Music & Vision, June, 2006
Pierce is one fantastic pianist ... I kid you not when I tell you that Pierce's Brahms Second put my long-standing favorite, Fleischer/Szell, at grave risk.
"Born in New York, Joshua Pierce studied at Julliard, the Manhattan School of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and Columbia University. Among his teachers and mentors are Artur Balsam, Victor Babin, and Arthur Loesser. With a pedigree like that, it is little wonder that Pierce is one fantastic pianist who has to his credit a quite eclectic discography spread among a number of various labels. It appears, however, that this is his first walk down Romantic Main Street; though the emporia he has chosen to visit, except for the Brahms, are not exactly Repertoire Central.
"I kid you not when I tell you that Pierce's Brahms Second put my long-standing favorite, Fleischer/Szell, at grave risk. This is one of the most difficult of piano concertos to bring off, and Pierce's reading of it is about as near to perfect as one is likely to hear. The identity crisis of his First Concerto behind him, Brahms now no loner Suffer confusion over what he is about. The Second Piano Concerto is a concerto in name only. It is symphonic in dimension ands scope, and had Brahms called it a "symphony with piano," I doubt that anyone would have taken issue with him. Like much else of Brahms's music for piano, the B-flat concerto does not lie comfortably on the keyboard; it is not natural for the piano, as is the music of Chopin and Liszt. This is not to day that Chopin and Liszt are easy; rather, it is that their technical difficulties find solutions that are innately pianistic. But this alone is not what makes the Brahms so challenging. It is the way in which the piano engages with the orchestra. It is not a protagonist vs. the world relationship. It is an interleaved dialogue in which sentences begun by one are taken up, continued and completed by the other min a continuous conversation. Timing, inflection, dovetailing are critical. Pierce is a powerhouse who negotiates Brahms's hurdles effortlessly, as for most pianists who tackle the work; but what makes this performance a standout is the rapt and seemingly intuitive engagement between Pierce, Kirk Trevor, and the Bohuslav Martinu orchestral forces, the magic of oneness I've encountered only rarely in readings in this score.
"Programming Cesar Franck's symphonic poem for piano and orchestra, Les Djinns ("The Genies") was quite the master stroke, and not just because it is so seldom heard. Equally interesting is the Franck's piece, though closer in style and content to Liszt's symphonic tone poem, takes a similar approach to Brahms in fashioning the role of the solo piano in relation to the orchestra. Whether by accident or design, it is significant that ArkivMusic.com categorizes its only other two listings of the piece not under "Soloist and Orchestra", but under "Orchestral." Both of those recordings, which I've heard (on BIS with pianist Kerstin Aberg and on Naxos with pianist Francois-Joel Thoillier), are competitive with Pierce, and may be preferred by some for offering all Franck programs. But Trevor's and Pierce's Les Djinns is very fine, and for me its particular mixed program makes good sense.
"You might think that Pierce has offered Liszt's Concerto pathetique as the cherry on the sundae, but the fact that this Lisztian virtuosic confection also has a logic within the context of this program. It is both the earliest and the latest of the three items on the disc. Begun some 35 years earlier as a grand concert for solo piano, the piece underwent a number of transformations and title changes before finally being published in 1886 in it current form in an arrangement by Liszt's pupil, Eduard Reues. Shades of Brahms and his First Piano Concerto? Given the time span over which Concerto pathetique shape-shifted, it stands as an "amazing amalgam of Liszt's musical thought and style over the final four decades of his life," says Eric Salzman, who believes the piece is indeed Liszt's "unacknowledged Piano Concerto No. 4.
"For all lovers of great concerted muscle for piano and orchestra, and for phenomenally fine playing and recording all around, this is a highly recommended. (Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2, MS1148)."
-Jerry Dubins, Fanfare Magazine, July/August, 2006
Prestidigital brilliance ...
"Pierce's prestidigital brilliance (Liszt: The Three Piano Concertos, MS1154) ... [is] remarkable
-Fanfare Magazine, July/August, 2006
... powerful playing
"Joshua Pierce's powerful playing of Brahms' Second Concerto (MS 1148) offers an imaginative, poetic, yet rhythmically-driven reading. ... fleet playing in Franck's short, seldom-heard 'symphonic poem for piano and orchestra,' Les Djinns and keen playing of the Liszt Concerto Pathetiqué (MS 1154).
"Pierce has always been an impressive Liszt player; on a reissue originally released by Carleton, he performs the two famous piano concertos, the authenticated but seldom encountered Third Concerto and the craggy Totentanz with powerful virtuosity and grand feeling."
-Turok's Choice, Issue 177, May 2006
Pianist Pierce gives exciting performances of all three works
"Pianist Pierce gives exciting performances of all three works ... The Brahms Concerto in B-flat Major, Op. 83, is a pungent, vigorous delight, muscular and often free-wheeling in temperament. ... The Lisztian elements abound in this virtuoso piece (Les Djinns (1884) of Cesar Franck), with stunning key changes from its initial F-sharp Minor. The momentum increases, the syncopes rummaging between 2/4 and 3/4, and the orchestral textures thickening into a malevolent brew. Pianist Pierce plays its runs, cascading arpeggios, glissandi and keyboard recitative with deliberate pace and tension, a veritable color touch-piece. ... (Pierce's) lyrical sections (Liszt's E Minor Concerto Pathetique) hearken to the lovelier aspects of the Years of Pilgrimage, with nice touches from oboe, clarinet , cello, and violin. ... Besides its distillation of diverse styles in Liszt, it constantly changes its emotional contour in protean colors, quite reminiscent of the A Major Concerto ... the two great Liszt sonatas."
- Audiophile Audition, April 1, 2006
... belongs in every library
"Featuring the music of John Cage, Charles Ives and Ivan Wyshnegradsky, critically acclaimed pianist, Joshua Pierce, joined by Johnny Reinhard on bassoon (tracks 23, 24) and Mike Ellis on saxophone (track 24), brilliantly communicate these sharp and brittle pieces which fully engage the senses with striking instrumental color and stupefying imagination. The Cage sonatas for prepared piano are especially mesmerizing, often turning the sound of the instrument into something more of a strangled gamelan ensemble, a broken, metallic wind-up music box or steel pan duo gone awry. The voice and musicality that Pierce milks from these works is astonishing and while he is greatly respected and admired for his skill and artistry, even more telling is his ability to "stay out of the way of the music" and let the original inspiration shine through. For contemporary classical collectors, this is a disc that belongs in every library."
- Tamara Turner, CD Baby
"Invention and seriousness"
"Joshua Pierce plays Cage's music with a nice integration of invention and seriousness."
- Jan. 5, 2005, Amazon.com
The voice and musicality that Pierce milks from these works is astonishing ...
"Featuring the music of John Cage, Charles Ives and ivan Wyshnegradsky, critically acclaimed pianist Joshua Pierce brilliantly communicate these sharp and brittle pieces which fully engage the senses with striking instrumental color and stupefying imagination...The voice and musicality that Pierce milks from these works is astonishing and while he is greatly respected and admired for his skill and artistry, even more telling is his ability to 'stay out of the way of the music' and let the original inspiration shine through. For contemporary classical collectors, this is a disc that belongs in every library." (Joshua Pierce: Live At The Dom/Alternativa Festival, Moscow, Russia, Solyd Records 0303)
- CD Baby.com, Editor's Picks, July, 2006
Moonlight Sonata ... a revelation
"The recent rendition of the Moonlight Sonata by Joshua Pierce in Kirnberger III tuning (American Festival of Microtonal Music a couple of weeks ago) was a revelation: dehackneyed, disconnected from routine hearings, the piece took on incredible beauty and power - even for me, not a Beethoven afficionado."
- Elodie Lauten, April 2, 2006, Sequenza 21
"your Ludwig v. Beethoven was so extraordinary, that most of us in your audience last Saturday hope to hear (it) again." (Beethoven's Sonata quasi une fantasia in C# Minor, Op. 27, No. 2)
- Richard Kostelanetz, March 27, 2006
delightful piece sparkles in Pierce's hands
"A splendid disc featuring pianist Joshua Pierce, with Kirk Trevor leading several excellent Slovak orchestras, offers Milhaud's Carnival d'Aix, Britten's Young Apollo, and an acute reading of Strauss' suite from Le Bourgoise Gentilhomme in which the often virtuosic piano part (which weaves in and out throughout the score) is given greater prominence than it ordinarily receives (KL5137). Milhaud's delightful piece sparkles in Pierce's hands far more than it has on its few other recordings and the Strauss is so impressively done that it belongs among the top versions of this much-recorded piece. Pierce expertly balances the solo passages (which he plays with great panache) with those that require more blending with the other instruments."
- Turock's Choice, Issue 176, April 2006
... more taken with the music and with your genius
"We've been listening to the (recording of) concert (Piano Masters Series at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA, October 13, 2005) some, and with each listen we are more taken with the music and with your genius. Looking forward to more."
- Genevieve Kaye, President, Lehigh Valley Piano Society and Bucks County Piano Society, October 2005
...awesome performances of the extended/exhaustive modern masterpieces
... among the great concerts of the 1990's
Charles Ives: Universe Symphony (The Stereo Society, SS007)
"The premiere of Johnny Reinhard's realization of Charles Ives's /Universe Symphony, /at Alice Tully Hall on June 6, 1996, is still justly remembered as counting among the great concerts of the 1990's. It included dozens of "downtown" performers, including flautist Andrew Bolotowsky, percussionist Slip La Plante, violinist Tom Chiu, and pianist Joshua Pierce, most of them working out of an appreciation of Reinhard's effort to produce Ives's final, purportedly unfinished piece."
- Richard Kostelanetz, The Brooklyn Rail, November 2005
Piano as percussion orchestra
"In an effort to find new ways to use the piano, Cage came upon the idea of inserting objects on the strings such as nuts, bolts, erasers, cutlery, and so on. What he got was a wonderful percussion orchestra that makes these charming pieces so special.
Much of the music is very rhythmic and driving and does not in fact sound too much unlike an Indonesian Gamelan. Other music is more spacious and lets the intriguingly novel sonorities resonate and sink in. Cage was very specific about exactly what materials should be used to "prepare" the piano and where those materials go. I appreciate that the booklet that comes with the CD gives a list of all the preparations used.
This CD will both open your ears to what is possible with the piano and make a delightful addition to your record collection, even if you are new to new music.
Pianist Joshua Pierce plays these pieces very well with a nice integration of invention and seriousness."
- klangfarbenguy, Amazon.com
...'Revelation' is piano tuning at its exuberantly dissonant best.
"Michael Harrison's "Revelation" is a caressing, cataclysmic, monumentally over-the-top ode to a comma. It lasts 90 nonstop minutes. It is played on a piano curiously tuned. The piece was finished this year, and Joshua Pierce's astounding performance of it at Los Angeles Pierce College (no relation) on Saturday night as part of this year's MicroFest was a west-coast premiere.
"The piano at Pierce was a splendid monster, a 9'2" Blüthner, and once the pure consonances had mellowed us out, Harrison slowly released the dissonances. The notes fight with one another and produce an acoustic phenomenon of beating. They make rhythm. And when the tremolos start roaring in the tone clouds, it is as though the beasts have been let out of their cages.
"The real sophistication comes in the keyboard writing. Harrison's music, until now, has been intended for him to perform in his dreamy, improvisatory, transcendental way. "Revelation" was notated at Pierce's request, and the pianist adds a whole new dimension of phrasing.
"Pierce is an old-school virtuoso who likes to mix things up (he is best known for his excellent Cage and Liszt recordings). His stunning performance Saturday was a feat that will not be soon forgotten."
- Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, May 16, 2005
...awesome performances of the extended/exhaustive modern masterpieces
"The measure of Joshua Pierce's greatness as a contemporary music pianist has been his awesome performances of the extended/exhaustive modern masterpieces, among them John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes, Charles Ives's Concord Sonata, and Michael Harrison's Revelations, which are keyboard challenges that separate giants from duffers."
-Richard Kostelanetz, writer, artist, and critic April. 2005
...tender, fierce, thoughtful, and soaring ...
"Michael Harrison's 90-minute "Revelation," which will be presented on February 10, 2005 by World Music Institute and Thomas Buckner in a performance at Merkin Concert Hall by pianist Joshua Pierce, is that sort of revolutionary work; it sounds as novel and astounding to our ears as "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" must have to its first audience...And in Joshua Pierce, Mr. Harrison has found a wonderful collaborator - a Grammy-nominated pianist whose 35 recordings range from the Liszt, Brahms and Beethoven concertos to the music of John Cage, with whom he worked closely. In past performances, this virtuosic music and its interpreter were as one: by turns tender, fierce, thoughtful, and soaring. The achievement is worth experiencing."
-Stuart Isacoff, "A Work That Harnesses Nature's Harmonies/New York Sun, February 7, 2005
A Tribute/John Cage
"...So why drop 24 (euros) on yet another rendition of Four walls and Sonatas and Interludes? Well, if Joshua Pierce's fiesty interpretations don't pique your interest, then maybe some early Cage rarities: Three Early Songs and Prelude (Piano Sextet) for Six Instruments in A minor - released here on CD for the first time, will light a fire under your credit card...In addition to a few obscurities, expect to find something fresh, edgy, injected with spunkiness and flair."
- New Music Box The Web Magazine of the American Music Center, Issue 68-Vol.6, No.8, Dec. 2004
Piano Metamorphosis: Joshua Pierce in Concert at Guild Hall on Sept 1.
"Joshua Pierce, a pianist of genius, put on two works by John Cage and Michael Harrison, both decidedly on the leading edge of music - utterly transforming."
- On The Scene (Where we've been, who we've seen)/The Improper Magazine, Vol. IV, Issue 6/October 2004
"Joshua Pierce's performance of Mussorgsky's Pictures at An Exhibition and the Liszt Funerailles on the Estonia Piano 273 were fantastic...I wish more people had chosen that piano for their interpretations."
- Pianoworld.com, Online review/discussion (From the Faust Harrison Piano Marathon of October 24, 2004)
"Pianist Joshua Pierce, on the best recording of piano works by John Cage in decades, plays two major works: the Dance score Four Walls and the Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (plus a bevy of shorter works, some of which are first recordings) with such brilliant rhythmic acuity, timing, tenderness and imagination that, resistant as TC is to this fragmentary music, the powerful performances are entirely persuasive (ANTS RECORDS AG06, two discs)."
- Turok's Choice, Issue No. 159, October, 2004
'Revelation' Everyone Missed
"The East End has always been fertile ground for innovation in the arts, from William Merritt Chase to Jackson Pollock to Ray Johnson, and the community has prided itself on knowing originality when it sees it."
"Which makes it all the sadder to see a missed opportunity, a moment last week when a short drive to the John Drew Theater at Guild Hall in East Hampton presented an enormous return on invested energy, but few took advantage."
"A minuscule but appreciative crowd of about two dozen scattered in the theater on Wednesday, September 1, rewarded pianist Joshua Pierce and composer Michael Harrison with a standing ovation at the conclusion of the 100-minute work "Revelation," performed for the first time in its entirety after five years in the making. The debut of the newest version of the work, the bulk of it written while Mr. Harrison was on retreat in Westhampton Beach, comes about five months before the official unveiling before what will likely be a much larger crowd in Manhattan."
"'Revelation' was teamed with John Cage's "Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano" in a program titled "Piano Metamorphosis." It was an apt title, as both pieces use pianos altered for their purposes: the Cage work was written specifically for a piano "prepared" with various items placed in its strings, according to the composer's strict instructions, while Mr. Harrison's majestic piece was written for the harmonically tuned piano, a tuning that changes the essential complexion of the notes the instrument produces."
"Mr. Pierce is an accomplished pianist who has tackled works by some of the world's greatest composers; it's instructive that he found himself drawn to the work of Cage, a true innovator who collaborated with Mr. Pierce in recording his works. On stage at the John Drew, the pianist's technical brilliance was on display, but so was the emotional quality he brings to his interpretations. Visibly and, more importantly, audibly, he was deeply connected to the music he played."
"The 19 individual works that make up Cage's "Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano" were written over a two-year period beginning in 1946. They playfully intermingle the various sounds produced by the distorted piano strings, blending rhythms and melodic themes into the kind of quirky music produced decades later by synthesizers."
"The piano is, of course, a percussion instrument, and that is never more apparent than after it has been prepared a la Cage. Some keys, when struck, produce thumps and thuds that are strictly percussive; some ring like bells, some buzz and rattle. In certain cases, they produce unmistakable sounds that simply seem out of place coming from a grand piano: for example, keys that reproduce, with stunning accuracy, the sound of a chiming grandfather clock."
"Cage's "Sonatas and Interludes" are not grand in scale, but they are intriguing and riveting, dark and complex, pulled back from the brink of discordance by delicate interplay. Mr. Pierce played each individual work with the confidence of someone who knows the territory, seemingly singing the odd foreign language with a native's tongue. With his skilled guidance, the work becomes not merely odd, but fascinating, hinting at the musical mysteries that first attracted the composer to such uncharted territory."
"After a brief intermission, Mr. Pierce then dove into the challenging new work by Mr. Harrison, who assisted the pianist on stage by turning pages of the massive score and providing assistance in other ways. It was a marathon, equally challenging to the pianist's skill and physical stamina, and Mr. Pierce was up to the task."
"A word about the harmonically tuned piano: An explanation of the method and philosophy could fill a newspaper page, but in short, the piano is tuned not to the typical "equal temperament" but to "just intonation," or "pure" tuning. The difference is astonishing, it seems almost impossible for two notes to clash, and it is quite possible for a bouquet of notes to blend, mix and tumble together in a way that is pleasing to the ear."
"Mr. Harrison's "Revelation" is, not surprisingly, a spiritual work that uses the musical purity offered by the special tuning to explore the new landscapes it creates; the title refers both to the tuning and to its musical result. It also implies a search for divinity that is inherent in the work."
"It's difficult to capture the astounding way Mr. Pierce was able to create the "tone clouds" that are the centerpiece of the work. They are created in clusters of notes, played in a flurry, with each resonating as the other is added measure after measure of complicated runs, extending for long minutes, hovering and shimmering with a multitude of colors. At the climax of "Revelation," Mr. Pierce played powerfully with both hands, weaving the tone clouds, while simultaneously pounding the keyboard with his right elbow - which simply added more notes to the mix that blended perfectly."
"As he did with John Cage, Mr. Pierce has worked closely with Mr. Harrison on the piece, both men offering input as it evolved and mastering the performance of the work, no small feat. "Revelation" is a lengthy piece that is never tiresome in its search for the divine. It's fair to say that the "just intonation" seems to strike a chord somewhere very deep inside the listener, far beyond the eardrum."
"When 'Revelation' gets its "world premiere" at Merkin Hall in New York City on February 10, 2005, the music world likely will take notice: rarely does innovation sound this lovely and accessible, and succeed on such a spiritual plane. A much larger audience likely will join the two dozen who stood last week and applauded the work in East Hampton. The applause will be louder, but it won't be more heartfelt."
- Joseph Shaw, Southampton Press, Sept. 9, 2004
"It would be easy to say, on paper for example: here comes "another" Cage record. In fact, the risks are high in such an undertaking and also, what about the performance? Does it match the spirit of the composer? 'A Tribute'(AG-06) doesn't have any of these problems, because the interpreter Joshua Pierce is use to working on Cageian polemics and is considered one of the highest experts on the matter. The range of works contained herein also serves one of the most important and highest expressions of Cage's piano music. Agreeably, 'A Tribute' is essentially an album of early works along with ultra-known material and distinguished compositions issued here for the very first time." "The "listening" of this double CD is suggested to everyone; but much more to the denigrators of Cage's music. Anything else, to the contrary, on such an indisputable album as this, can only be considered a waste of time! Have a good listen!"
- Eterio Genio, SANDS , Italy, 2004
"This time, Ants Records(AG-06) has really out done itself, publishing two full discs of music containing two of John Cage's most important masterpieces: Four Walls and Sonatas And Interludes for Prepared Piano; performed by the American pianist, Joshua Pierce. In Four walls, we find the ideas of time as a founding and unifying parameter between sound and silence. The performance by Joshua Pierce is tremendous! He is totally attentive to the best rendering of its poetic sounds, both in the modal melodic-harmonic concatenation to the attacks, harmonics and wide dynamics. Mr. Pierce successfully conveys his own expressive urgency and in so doing, underlines with great contrast, the transparency of silence juxtapose to a performance of great drama and sensitivity." "The nine emotions indicated by the Indu traditions is at the center of Pierce's superb rendition of Sonatas And Interludes. Every sound, every timbral-nuance of this work, are evoked by the sensitive and musical pianism, which is consistently demonstrated by the extreme accuracy of the recording - a "live" one made at New York University on May 23,1999. This is a version of great clarity, comparing to the likes of: Takahashi, Cardini, Vandre or for that matter, Pierce's famous Wergo Recording from 1975. All in all, the personality and experience of Joshua Pierce plays a fundamental role, assuring us all the necessary dynamics and great musical expressivity."
- Emes Rosina, All About Jazz, Italy, 2004
In "John Cage: A Tribute," (ANTS Records, AG06) pianist Joshua Pierce has selected pieces that "show a musical and emotional range and depth missing from the composer's earlier efforts. Their beguiling sonorities are vividly alive and vibrant, and Pierce's interpretation has a feathery lightness and delicacy. Most of this fascinating double CD is taken up with Sonatas And Interludes (1946-1948), and the less known Four Walls (1944) ... Much of its material is surprisingly reminiscent of Copland's American pastoralism, though the repetitive structure looks forward to minimalism. Spontaneous Earth (1944) is a rare example of Cage in jazz mode. In The Name Of The Holocaust (1942) comes from a James Joyce pun and not the terrible events then unfolding in Europe - a haunting piece that shows Cage's early mastery of prepared piano, informed by techniques from his teacher Henry Cowell. Prelude (Piano Sextet) For Six Instruments from 1946 is rare Cage chamber music that gets its first recording. Music For Marcel Duchamp, for a surrealist film sequence by Duchamp, is a spare yet compelling prepared piano piece linking two key, if ambivalent, dada icons."
- Andy Hamilton, The Wire, Issue 245, July 2004
"Johnny Reinhard and Joshua Pierce performed in a bassoon and piano duo, in the Meditations on a Theme from the Day of Existence, originally for cello and piano by the one of the first pioneers of microtonal music, Ivan Wyschengradsky...Atonal, romantic piece, which alternated between the spirited and the exalted, yet with a more lyrical and tragic mood. The performance by Reinhard and Pierce, possibly the very first ever in Russia, was one of the most inspired ones they have ever played together. They performed in an unsurpassably virtuosic and invigorated way. After the performance, the audience applauded wildly, cheered and waved to show their extreme appreciation of both the piece and their performance."
- Anton Rovner, Musica Ukranica Online Magazine, Odessa, Ukraine July 31, 2004
"A fair degree of froth, as the title implies, never did anyone any harm, and this is a pleasant disc to have on ó surprising how after a while one takes the solo pianist's virtuosity for granted. Joshua Pierce's playing is stylish, squeaky-clean with showers of notes pouring from the whole range of the keyboard. This spans from Addinsell's concerto, which was used as a basis for the soundtrack on that highly unmemorable film 'Dangerous Moonlight,' on to Chopin's fairly unsubtle but tuneful variations on a theme from the duet between Giovanni and Zerlina from Don Giovanni, and then the inevitable Gershwin. The version here of his Rhapsody in Blue is billed as "complete and restored." It gets an uninhibited performance from Bratislava's players, who wouldn't have been allowed anywhere near its decadence 15 years ago. Listening to it, one wonders why Gershwin was so keen to study others when he was so brilliant himself. Ravel, when he got an answer to his questions asking how much Gershwin earned, responded 'I should be studying with you,' while Schoenberg refused him with this priceless comment, 'you write such fine Gershwin; if you worked with me you'd just write bad Schoenberg.'
Saint Saëns was himself no mean pianist as this cheery waltz demonstrates. It was a wedding present for his duo-pianist partner Caroline Montigne-Rémaury and sparkles from beginning to its very fast end ó a good waltz tune too. Another Caprice follows, this time worlds apart from the sophistication of the 19th century Parisians society. This is a sexy ragtime by the American composer Paul Turok, whose pedigree is impressive in a range of compositions from music for unaccompanied violin to an opera on Richard III. This Caprice may owe much to Scott Joplin but it also show considerable skills in its colorful orchestration. Even the cartoon music preceding its final strip show-like section and mad dash to the finishing line will impress. Liszt's paraphrase on Weber's music takes a while to get going after its moody orchestral introduction, but finally erupts into a whirling waltz making huge demands on the soloist. A selection like this would not be complete without the famous scherzo from the fourth of Litolff's symphonic piano concertos, and it makes a fitting conclusion to this hugely enjoyable disc with its infectiously familiar tune. It may sound easy but Pierce is a fine pianist with both prodigious technique and stylish skill.
- Christopher Fifield, UK Music Web, July 2003 Recording of the Month
"Joshua Pierce meets the challenge of a virtuosic disc entitled "For The Fun Of It All" with his usual brilliant pianism (KL 5124). Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto, Chopin's La ci Darem ... Variations, Op. 2, Gershwin's fully restored Rhapsody In Blue, Saint-Saens's Wedding Cake, Liszt's great arrangement of Weber's Polacca Brilliant for piano and orchestra, Litolff's Scherzo and Paul Turok's Ragtime Caprice (a first recording) are indeed fun to listen to when played with such ease and bravura. Warsaw is an audience favorite,the restored Gershwin a more substantial version of another favorite. The Saint-Saens and Litolff are played with scintillating dexterity they demand. Young Chopin's garrulous but delightful variations are not often heard; their difficulty outpaces their ultimate quality. TC refrains from comment on the Turok, but can testify that Pierce's performance is a composer's dream. Strong accompanients by Kirk Trevor and the Slovak Radio Symphony (Bratislava). TC would have recommended this superb disc even if it had not included the Turok."
- Turok's Choice, Issue No.145, June, 2003
"But if listening to Pierce talk about music is fun, listening to him play is even more fun, which is why the name of his latest record "For The Fun Of It All" is so appropriate.
The record, which he cut with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra of Bratislava, and Kirk Trevor conducting, includes everything from an original version of Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" to "Ragtime Caprice," by Paul Turok, to Chopin's variations on a melodic Mozart opera duo.
And for a real emotional whammy recalling World War II times, there's the beloved "Warsaw Concerto," written in 1942 by the composer known for his scores of "Goodbye, Mr.Chips" and "Blithe Spirits" and others Another band which puts a lilt in one's step is the blithe duet from Mozart's "Don Giovanni," in a series of variations by Chopin. The simple melody is pure Mozart, the cloud of arabesques and arpeggios enveloping it are pure Chopin, while the faultless execution is pure Pierce."
- Peggy Ann Bliss, The San Juan Star, Puerto Rico, May 31, 2003
"Joshua Pierce, an eloquent new-music pianist..."
- Alan Kozinn, New York Times, May 2, 2003
"Johnny Reinhard's American Festival of Microtonal Music presented three performances of Michael Harrison's Revelation: Music for the Harmonically Tuned Piano in late April and early May, with Joshua Pierce as the formidable piano soloist. I had heard an early incarnation of this work in a private recital a couple of years ago, with the composer at the keyboard. Harrison's approach, which grew partly from his work with composer La Monte Young, exploits the overtones generated naturally by vibrating strings - the series of pitches that resonates softly above every "fundamental" tone. For acoustical reasons these are obscured in the modern piano's usual equal-tempered tuning. The results here are often surprising and wondrous.
For example, in the midst of clouds of dense clusters rapidly drummed in the bass end of the instrument, an astute listener can perceive high ghost tones-sometimes bell-like, at other times vaporous-as if a choir of angels were singing along. The piece can run as long as 90 minutes, and its sections build toward a climax during which I would have sworn that Brazilian singer Milton Nasciemento had entered the room and begun chanting around a high B Flat. Joshua Pierce's rendering of the score was virtuosic in the best sense: technically accomplished and emotionally committed in every moment. When the piece was pensive, he was tender and thoughtful; when it wanted to soar, he unleashed a torrent of energy.
The intricate textures and remarkable effects of Revelation are the result of Harrison's desire to "emancipate the comma." This re-working of Schoenberg's famous phrase about the emancipation of dissonance registers the seriousness of his goal. A "comma" is the difference between two intervals with same name-a third, for example, or an octave-arrived at through different tunings systems. For example, a major third produced in equal temperament is wider than one produced by a naturally vibrating string. Play these two versions of the same third together and the result is a jarring dissonance. For centuries, musicians sought to avoid these clashes; Harrison incorporates them into the texture of his music.
In some ways, Harrison's vision represents the philosophical flip side of Schoenberg's. Schoenberg's revolution in Western music, through which he broke down conventional harmonic models, was by its nature horizontal: everything built from rows of tones scrupulously ordered, with no one tone more important than another. Harrison's approach is vertical: harmony built on subtle harmony, overtones wrestling or reinforcing each other-producing a concoction of sound filled with other worldly resonances. The difference between these approaches brings to mind an age-old argument, voiced in the eighteenth century between Rameau and Rousseau, over whether music attains expressivity through harmony or melody.
Schoenberg dissolved the distinction between consonance and dissonance. In similar fashion, Harrison rehabilitates the comma into a newly welcome constituent of the harmonic universe. This gives rise to an exciting and often moving musical dimension-one that may well be the path toward music's future."
- Stuart Isacoff, Sequenza 21, May 12, 2003
"With an intellect as complex as it is daring, and a heart as warm as God's green earth, Joshua Pierce is a pianist for the ages. With seemingly casual ease, he moves from Cage to Liszt to Richard Rodgers as if he grew up in their very households. This is an artist who knows no boundaries. Joshua, you inspire me!"
- Kirk Nurock, Composer, May 29, 2003
"Revelations is still haunting me in unexpected sonic daydreams. It seems to have affected the way I'm hearing equal-temp. music as well. Also, I think Joshua's passionate interpretation found even more layers in this extraordinary work. An unforgettable concert."
- Kirk Nurock, Composer, April 28, 2003
"This weekends performance of Michael Harrison's "Revelation" marks the first time that this piece will be performed with a soloist other than Harrison himself. Grammy-nominated pianist Joshua Pierce will certainly bring a whole other level of personal inspiration into this work, which seems to be in a constant state of transformation."
- Amanda MacBlane, New York Press, April 23, 2003
"Joshua Pierce, from New York, performed John Cage's Daughters of the Lonesome Isle, written in 1945. This piece features a brief, steady rhythmic pattern resembling gamelan music. It was performed by Pierce in a very expressive and musical manner, bringing out both the experimental, modernistic and the traditional expressive qualities of the piece in a most successful manner."
- Anton Rovner, Musica Ukranica Online Magazine, Odessa, Ukraine, July 31, 2004
LIVE AT THE DOM / ALTERNATIVA FESTIVAL / MOSCOW, RUSSIA. ... "SoLyd Records (SLR-0303) has finally released the long promised CD with the recording of the recital, which American pianist Joshua Pierce gave on April 22, 2000 at the Moscow "Alternativa" Festival. For the first time in Post-Soviet Russia a recording has come out by a foreign guest artist with world-wide fame: it suffices to say that prior to "Alternativa" Pierce had several performances together with our symphony orchestras as a performer of classical music. In the mid-1970's Pierce became acquainted with the leading conceptualist composer, John Cage. During the course of a quarter of a century, he had made about fifteen authorized recordings of Cage's piano music. As a pianist, Pierce reminds our academic audience of the popular Shura Cherkassky: he never deviates from the composer's original musical text, and at the same time he makes even the most difficult music accessible. For example, the "Three-Page Sonata" of the American classic Charles Ives is interpreted without the excessive "jazziness," inherent in the renditions of many performers, though still entirely out of context in a composition written in 1905. The central place on the disc is occupied by John Cage's cycle "Sonatas and Interludes" for prepared piano. It is a sort of introduction into the world of the contemporary piano, which is "prepared" in a special way prior to the performance, which transforms it into an entirely new instrument, which sounds more like a chromatic harp or an entire orchestra of percussion, similar to the Indonesian gamelan. Together with New York based bassoonist and composer Johnny Reinhard, Pierce also returns to its homeland the musical legacy of the experimentator in the field of microtonal music, the Russian emigre Ivan Wyschnegradsky, who died in France in 1979. An additional surprise turned out to be the participation in the concert of jazz saxophonist Mike Ellis, not planned earlier. He was able to literally draw Reinhard and Pierce into a joint improvisation, which, much better than dozens of other recordings, provides an impression of the informal atmosphere of "Alternativa". ... In all respects, the CD deserves an A+. "
- Dmitri Oukhov, "Zhurnal" (or "Yezhenedel'ny Zhurnal") Magazine (weekly), N.01/52, January 14, 2003, Moscow
ASTOUNDING! "This is a tremendous album. Joshua Pierce plays with a lot of passion and tremendous tone. His technique is a given, but he also goes beyond the notes and supplies an individuality and brilliance that you do not hear too often. As far as I am concerned, this recording is on par with the old Kapell/Koussevitzky RCA Victor recording. In a way, it goes much deeper. Simply astounding!"
- Amazon.com, on-line review (Russian Piano Concertos, Phoenix 117/Hallmark 350722) Feb. 20, 2003
On speaking of the new Cage/Ives/Wyschnegradsky on the contemporary Russian label Solyd Records (SLR-0303) issued in December of 2002 Carol Baron writes: "With virtuosity and verve, Joshua Pierce's performance of the Three Page Sonata is matchless in communicating the feisty humor in Charles Ives parody of the classical sonata."
- Carol Baron, One of the leading American scholars on the music of Charles Ives. December 2002
"Co-performing American artists Mariusz Smolij (resident conductor/Houston Symphony) and Joshua Pierce (piano) have met with a very favorable response in Kocise, Slovakia. The program of the concert by the Slovak State Philharmonic (March 7, 2002) provided an opportunity for classical jazz (Bernstein: Camdide Overture, Gershwin: Lullaby For Strings, Rhapsody In Blue for piano and orchestra) and one of the leading representatives of Czech national music (Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in e minor op. 95 "From The New World"). All the compositions were rehearsed and performed with a great attention to detail thus giving evidence to one of the more enriching programs of the season. The Rhapsody In Blue with Joshua Pierce as the soloist was an absolute triumph! The pianist, who had great rapport with the conductor and orchestra, brought and displayed a shimmering sound texture, poetry and technique. His performance, while gaining momentum, was absolutely perfect as it was quite apparent that his part of the composition is extremely well interpreted. I watched with complete enjoyment his technically and expressively superb performance with the orchestra."
- Stefan Curilla, Music Life, Slovak Republic, Stefan Curilla, April 20, 2002
"Pierce/Synergy ... the creativity of the dialogue between European classicism and jazz in this CD (Jazz Alchemy - Labor Records 7024-2) is truly inspiring."
- Jazz Indie
"Most of these abstract pieces by Heiner Stadler were originally recorded and released back in the 1970s. Stadler doesn't play on them, leaving that task to some of the finest avant-garde jazzers ... "Three Problems," a single composition presented in five different versions, is played twice by the duo of bassist Reggie Workman and pianist Marilyn Crispell and three times by the solo pianist Joshua Pierce.
Stadler combines "Jazz Alchemy" and "Three Problems" to form a sort of meta-suite. Devoid of harmonic structure, the music is an encounter between free jazz and serialist composition. It's all rather ingenious: the changing ensemble formats, the two works telescoped together, and the subtle intervallic relationships that Stadler uses as a basis for each movement. There's a point, however, where Stadler's ingenuity ends and that of the players begins. These instrumental masters of the avant-garde are the real attraction here."
- David R. Adler, All Music Guide
"Louie Lortie is a ... lilting but limp Lisztian. A generous disc on Chandos offers some of the composer's lesser known, but very impressive works ... works for piano and orchestra: De Profundis, Malédiction, Totentanz, along with the playful Fantasy on Hungarian Folk-Tunes....If a single word might apply to the solo part of all these pieces, it would be "assertive" and assertiveness is precisely what Lortie's playing here lacks... These four works have appeared on several more convincingly performed sets fairly recently. Leslie Howard is stronger than Lortie in De Profundis, although neither is a match for Joshua Pierce (Carleton Classics) in the Totentanz, Fantasy ... and especially, Malédiction."
- Turok's Choice, Issue 125, Sept, 2001
"Here, the music: the Li Po Songs, Dark Brother and Incident at Drake's Bay was by Harry Partch, sometime hobo and recluse ... a rare opportunity to hear this composer's bitter, lyrical, idiosyncratically tuned music (performed by Reinhard, Pierce, Eggar and LaPlante) was much appreciated."
- Keith Potte, Independent, Outsider Art/Music, Barbican, London, March 27, 2001
"In the first half we had the American Festival of Microtonal Music Ensemble (Reinhard, Pierce, Eggar and LaPlante) (themselves a pretty certifiable bunch) playing the wild, howling music of the maverick American composer Harry Partch."
- Richard Morrison,, The Guardian, Outsider, Barbican, London, March 26, 2001
"Joshua Pierce took a more rational and cerebral approach to interpreting Charles Ives' Three Page Sonata, while maintaining all the brilliance of his technique."
- Anton Rovner, 21st Century Music, (Europe-Asia Festival/April 17, 2000, Nizhekimsk, Russia), August, 2002
A MUST FOR YOUR COLLECTION! "This is without a doubt one of the best recordings of Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 around. I have never heard the concerto played with such fire and passion, especially interpretation of both the malediction and the Dies Irae were astounding. I have the Sviatoslav Richter recording on vinyl and I have to agree with the American record Guide's assessment, that the recording is right up there."
- Amazon.com, on-line review (Carlton Classics, IMP 30367-02147) September 10, 2002
"Breathtakenly Passionate!...Without a doubt, this is one of the great all-time recordings of Liszt...The Piano Concertos are not to be believed. The passion and brilliance of the Totentanz and the Malaciction (far outclasses George Bolet!!!) with amazing individuality, yet never loses sight of the Lisztian component...all this from a pianist who has been primarily associated with the contemporary repertoire and the music of John Cage for the last 15+ years! I have never heard a better performance of the Schubert-Liszt Wanderer Fantasie...Should be reissued. This CD set is too good to be a "Lost Classic."
- Amazon.com, on-line review, (Carlton Classics, IMP 30367-02147) June 8. 2001
"The pianist, the American Joshua Pierce, held our attention with his unique pianistic grasp and aroused our interest not only by his similarity to Shura Cherkassky, but also by his convincing performance of compositions by Cage and Ives (being especially well-known for his many recordings of the latter's piano compositions). It would have been very interesting to become acquainted with his performances of classical repertoire, given the fact that the artist shares his attention between the music of the past and of the present."
- Marina Raku, Muzkal'naya Akademiya, Moscow, Russia, February 16, 2001
PIANIST PIERCE THRILLS AT TIFERETH ... "A capacity audience cheered New York pianist, Joshua Pierce and the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra under the direction of David Amos at their January 23 concert. There was indeed much to cheer about. Joshua Pierce's playing demonstrated wonderful versatility. He acquitted himself well in both Beethoven's Piano Concert No. 4 and Gershwin's Concerto in F." Pierce performed the Beethoven with fleet-fingered technique and strong dramatic contrasts. The final rondo movement was lighthearted with the orchestra's lower strings accompanying the solo piano with resonant pizzicato. Pierce infused the Gershwin concerto with a jazzy spirit as if he were improvising on the themes himself. ..his family was acquainted with the Gershwins and Joshua was familiar with George's work since early childhood."
- Eileen Wingard, San Diego Press Heritage, San Diego, CA, February 9, 2001
"Pierce is consistently exciting, thoroughly professional and fully committed to the task, and performing music at the highest level of performance."
- San Diego Jewish Times, February 1, 2001
Jazzmatazz voted Jazz Alchemy (Pierce, et.al) one of the top ten jazz recordings in the category of re-issues for the year 2000.
- Jules Epstein, Jazzmatazz, January 2001
"Pianist Joshua Pierce takes Heiner Stadler's Three Problems around the plinth ... Pierce greases his own skillet with judiciously doled energy."
- Kurt Silsbie, Jazziz, January 8, 2001
"Three Page Sonata written by Charles Ives in 1915 on three large pages, was a vibrant, texturally lush piece, used as its basis a choral type texture along with the BACH theme in its transpositions, greatly enhanced by polyrhythmic activity and a highly spirited emotional mood, which at times subsided into a gentle lyricism, organically merging Romantic almost Chopinesque textures with predominately atonal harmonies. Joshua Pierce from New York, performed the piece in a highly virtuosic and expressive manner, bringing out the most subtle contrasts in the textural and harmonic languages of the piece and evoking a most favorable response from the audience."
- A. Rovner, Europe/Asia 2000 Music Festival, Kazan, Republic of Tartarstan, 21st Century Music, October, 2000
Jazz Alchemist Heiner Stadler (Labor Records 7024-2). "Composer/arranger Heiner is fondly remembered for one of the all-time great album titles, his 1970s' release Brains on Fire". If that phrase implied the synapse-shredding quality of much of that era's Free jazz,. Stadler's newly reissued suite Jazz Alchemy suggests brains aflame with a quieter, though no less riveting, approach to the acoustic jazz tradition ... Mixed in with the suite, - and amplifying, rather than distracting form its content - are five versions of another Stadler composition, Three Problems. Seen from a different angles, two of the pieces versions are form 1988 duet recordings by Marilyn Crispwell and Reggie Workman (and the heavyweight status of the names carries over tot he music), while the remaining versions are solo piano, by Joshua Pierce, recorded in 1974. Pierce is a pianist who is obviously comfortable in the realms of avant-garde jazz as well as 20th century classical, and his readings of the piece are delivered with the consummate tension-release and coloristic skills common to both genres. Both intellectually and viscerally satisfying, Stadler's Jazz Alchemy deserves to be heard."
- Jazz Alchemy message board, Yahoo.com, "Proggy" Fields, Contributor, September 24, 2000
Heiner Stadler Jazz Alchemy (LAB 7024-2) "...moments that could excite even the most staunch traditional jazzman."
- Billboard's Top Album Pick, Summer 2000
"Pierce successfully brought out the experimental, modernist and the traditional, expressive qualities of the piece.
"Joshua Pierce from New York featured Three Page Sonata written by Charles Ives in 1915 and John Cage's Daughters of a Lonesome Island (1945) for prepared piano, with a busy, steady rhythmic textural pattern, exotic gamelan like, percussive effects and at the same time lyrical and emotional. Pierce successfully brought out the experimental, modernist and the traditional, expressive qualities of the piece. Johnny Reinhard with Joshua Pierce performed on bassoon and piano: Meditation On Two Themes from the Day of Existence originally for cello and piano, by Russian composer Ivan Wyschnegradsky, one of the microtonal pioneers. It alternated a spirited, exalted mood with more lyrical, almost tragic, elements, employing quartertones and sixthtones for the cello and, subsequently, the bassoon. The performance of the piece by Reinhard and Pierce, possibly one of the first in Russia, was unsurpassably virtuosic in manner and inspiring."
- Seen & Heard Concert Review (UK), Europe/Asia Contemporary Music Festival, Kazan, Republic of Tartarstan, April, 2000
PIANO FESTIVAL OPENS IN KEY WITH SPLENDOR
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - "Three complete piano concertos is a lot of music for one concert. Piano soloist Joshua Pierce played a trio of famous concertos in a blockbuster performance that returned Chapin Hall at Williams College to the days of the 19th century when so few orchestras of quality existed that often the only way to hear a new concerto was in a transcription, with a second piano playing the orchestral part ... Pierce used the hall marvelously for Beethoven's Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58 and Gershwin's Concerto in F and 'Rhapsody in Blue' in the 'first restored complete uncut version,' in the second ...Pierce met the challenge of the three concertos with energy to spare. The opening Beethoven had swagger and panache aplenty, with clear runs and fine articulation. The performance was well sprung, with a clear sense of majesty that sometimes gets lost in even in the best piano performances, and Pierce, solicitously supported by pianist Dorothy Jonas, went successfully for the grand gesture. After the break came Gershwin's Concerto in F, which was full of energy and brio, both pianists at home in the style, especially in the slow movement's bluesy ease and saunter. There was a crispness in Pierce's solo playing that brought a snap-crackle-pop to the performance. Particularly in the final movement, Pierce captured what Gershwin wanted: a jazzy style married to a classic gesture.Both Pierce and Jonas let go in an idiomatic treatment of 'Rhapsody in Blue' in which Jonas made believable work of the famous clarinet glissando at the beginning. By the time the famous big tune arrived, it was in fine lyric shape, suitably bravura and swinging. Liszt would have loved it."
- Times Union, Albany, July 12, 2000
Microtonal Music on Prechistenka Street ... "On April 19 of the new millennium the Moscow Muradlli Music School, Prechistenka Street became the venue of an extraordinary musical event. In its graceful concert hall a concert dedicated to microtonal music took place as part of the international "Music of Friends" Festival, organized by the Russian Composers Union.
One should mention that in America contemporary music remains a domain for genuine enthusiasts, people who serve the arts in a sincere manner. Three wonderful non-commercial musicians from the USA have performed in the Concert Hall at Prechistenka: composer and bassoonist, Johnny Reinhard, who had completed Charles Ives immortal Universe Symphony a few years ago; the brilliant pianist Joshua Pierce, a champion of contemporary music, including the music of John Cage, the piano compositions of whom he had performed numerous times and had recorded on compact discs, also being a wonderful performer of traditional, classical repertoire; jazz saxophonist Mike Ellis, who grew up at the crossroads of several cultures - American, Russian and Scottish.
The concert at Prechistenka included not only microtonal music, but generally experimental music of the most various types of styles and trends: ranging from the tonal, Romantic compositions of early Wyschnegradsky to the avant-garde.
La Procession de la Vie for reciter and piano was written by Ivan Wyschnegradsky in the beginning of the century . The piano part, depicting the text with the right hand over a steady, unchanging march accompaniment figure in the left hand was performed by Joshua Pierce in a subtle and delicate manner. Ivan Wyschnegradsky's composition, Meditation on Two Themes from Day of Existence , originally for cello and piano, was performed by Maestro Reinhard and Maestro Pierce in a transcription for bassoon and piano. This Moscow premiere of the work was preceded in by numerous performances by this duo in the USA, who also recorded it on CD. The composition which featured a romantically exalted and vigorous mood, which at the end becomes elegiac, was successfully interpreted by both musicians with great taste and refinement. The composition for prepared piano Daughters of the Lonesome Island sounded out with an orchestral feeling - a touch of the exotic flavor of the music of far-away countries brilliantly performed by Joshua Pierce. In a very expressive manner Maestro Pierce also performed Ives' composition Three Page Sonata, also creating the effect of a brightly contrasting orchestral sound. The composition contains a chaotic type of atonal harmony with elements of diatonicism and brightly contrasting changes of moods. The texture of the Sonata reminded one alternatively of sweeping Rachmaninoff textures, subtly lyrical textures and, at times, contained incursions of march rhythms.
The joint improvisation of the three musicians, Reinhard, Pierce and Ellis brought out not only great lyrical and virtuosic qualities, but a masterful sense of form and dramatic qualities of music to such an extent that it seemed they were not improvising together jointly, but performing a written composition, which they previously rehearsed together for a long time and scrupulously. The improvisation featured elements of jazz, though not in its pure form.
The concert at Prechistenka Street presented itself as a varied conglomeration of innovative compositions, which carried in themselves fancy musical innovation in the domain of harmony and technique as well as brilliant expressivity. The musicians from America were successful in introducing the Moscow public to this not very familiar trend in contemporary music. With their enthusiasm they greatly affected the listeners, creating an impression of a bright holiday in Moscow's concert season."
- Rossiyskaya Muzykal'naya Gazeta (Russia Musical Newspaper), June, 2000
"In complete silence (the photographers did not dare to make snaps with their equipment) the performance of the Sonatas and Interludes of John Cage took place. The cycle of 16 two-movement sonatas and 4 interludes for prepared piano is identical to the "Well Tempered Klavier" ñ the last noteworthy composition by Cage (1946-1948) before his discovery of the principles of indeterminacy, already reflecting the fascination with Buddhism. At the piano was Joshua Pierce, a well-known performer of 20th century music and a winner of several Grammy Award nominations. The CD album of Pierce with John Cage's early piano music is considered exemplary."
- Rossiyskaya Muzykal'naya Gazeta (Russian Musical Newspaper), May, 2000
THERE IS NOTHING ALIEN TO BEING THE VANGUARD OF THE AVANT-GARDE ... "Within the flood of contemporary compositions of the past, there are works that become pearls of Vanguard's classics: Three Page Sonata by Charles Ives and John Cage's Daughters of the Lonesome Isle performed by the American pianist Joshua Pierce.. Under Pierce's command, his playing filled in all the desperate strands of writing and gave evidence to his performance of 'staggering timbre of palate'. His playing revealed tremendous finds in the musical compositions of the past 50 years that have not lost any of their newness, freshness, or urgency which is so commonplace among composers of today."
- Republic of Tartarstan Newspaper (Russia), April 25, 2000
"The Westfield Symphony Orchestra (WSO) combined a number of musical elements last weekend to produce one of their greatest successes of the season. ... A dramatic change of pace brought pianist Pierce to the stage to perform the Duke Ellington Piano Concerto "New World a-Comin'". Here with this parting from classical music and into the realm of jazz, we were truly able to see the versatility of Pierce as well as the orchestra. Pierce has full command of the jazz genre!"
"Pierce has immense technical command of the instrument along with highly articulate phrasing..." - Westfield Leader and the Times, April 6, 2000
"Mr. Pierce is a pianist of great technique."
-Classical New Jersey, April 1, 2000
"Whatever you might say about Joshua Pierce, he certainly isn't a boring or unimaginative pianist. He goes his own interpretive way and possesses an arsenal of pianistic talents that can both astonish the ear and instruct the mind."
"His performance of the Khachaturian Piano Concerto is muscular and colorful, driven and powerful ... We have a thrilling performance of a concerto that doesn't rest well in contemplative hands. Yet, his reading may be too much of a good thing; his tone is rich and voluminous (hear for example how he phrases the latter part of the second movement's main theme). He plays the cadenzas with imagination and deft attention to crucial detail. Try the one in the finale _ Pierce renders it with tremendous atmosphere" and individuality. I'm not sure anyone has played it better."
"The Prokofieff First Concerto is played with individuality and skill. His playing rarely shortchanges the more caustic elements in this encore, Pierce gives us a Prokofieff with power and muscle."
"The Shostakovich Second Concerto is powerful and muscular as well. Pierce, however makes an excellent case for his approach, supplying a liveliness and jeu d'espirit to contrast with potent outbursts. The finale is stunningly rendered, capping a performance that rivals the Bernstein/NY Philharmonic."
"Joshua's opening account of the Respighi Toccato for Piano and Orchestra (a first CD recording) is worth the price of admission, again from the dramatic opening to the lovely Italianate Theme (Andante Lento). The work by turns fascinates, scintillates and excites."
"The Partita of Alfredo Casella involves the neo-classicism of Stravinsky and displays an even greater expressive range and even profound aspects then the Respighi. This is music of optimism and character, of drive and climactic power. Pierce seems at be with the spirit of these works, capturing their multi-faceted personae with deft, sensitive pianism that few rivals could muster. Venturing on to this musical highway, with no traffic to follow, but relying on your own instincts to negotiate the sharp curve and steep hills, is a challenge most artists would choose to avoid. The underrated Anton Nanut partners splendidly with Pierce, drawing excellent performances from the Slovenian Radio & Television players."
"Pierce's Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini is one of the fastest performances I've ever heard. In this case, Pierce is fully convincing, delivering Rachmaninov that is by turns romantic and brilliant, demonic and urgent, but never radical or excessive. His playing of the Dies Irae Theme is stately and deliciously serene, then appropriately becomes down-right scary. Nanut is right on target here - and throughout. Pierce's playing supplies all the dramatic and ominous atmosphere you'd want. This account may rank at or near the top of the considerable heap. Still it's a performance not to be missed. Highly recommended."
- Robert D. Cummings, Classical.net
"A full house greeted yesterday's concert by the Leontovich String Quartet, now in its 13th season at Music Mountain here. The Chamber music festival itself is 70 years old and every year it has programmed Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44, the first known piano work ever composed, by a man not known for his quartets. The piano soloist, Joshua Pierce, fit right in with the distinguished foursome, who now include a father and son team on violins. Schumann's opening allegro was brilliant indeed; his closing had an infusion of peasant blood. Where the slow movements belongs to the strings, the piano is the whole show. These musicians are fastidious but unpressured, their demeanor is enough for them to keep their jackets on even in humid heat. They are a treasure."
- Danbury News-Times
"In Schubert's Sonata in B-flat, D. 960... the melancholy song-like quality so frequently ignored in Schubert was brought well into focus. Meter changes were handled well--clearly thought out and prepared for. The singing quality, extremely lyrical and tender, and the changes in modulation, were handled with finesse. In Chopin's complete Twelve Etudes, Op. 10, the fluid lyricism of the whole, the romantic subtleties and the intensity of Mr. Pierce's performance, all combined to make it an unusual experience for the listener. The Revolutionary Etude in particular, taken at breakneck speed, was endowed with dynamic subtleties and fire. The highlight of the concert was Moussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Mr. Pierce not only seemed most comfortable with this rarely performed virtuoso work, he seemed to revel in it. The rendition of "Gnomes" was playful, precisely in the intended style. In "The Castle," his romantic nuances lent themselves extraordinarily well to the scope of the work. Mr. Pierce's ability as a technician was apparent in "Chicks," where his precision playing and dynamic performance provided a musical travelogue. The dynamism of Russian romanticism in ["Baba Yaga" and "The Great Gate of Kiev"] brought Mr. Pierce's exuberant performance to its climax and brought him well the deserved ovation from one of the largest audiences to classical recitals in the area."
- Richard Wright, The Irregular, NH
"Some people describe classical music as dull, but no one who has listened to Joshua Pierce's piano could ever use that word. ... total mastery at the piano. His playing gives those the chance to discover what they have missed!"
- Mountain Ear, New Hampshire
"In Mozart's Fantasie in C minor, K475, the subtle use of the pedal leant a delicate warmth to the articulation ... Mr Pierce rendered the work in a manner that is stylistically associated more with romanticism than with classicism, but the consistently careful alterations of tempo ultimately achieved an unifying effect appropriate to the fantasie form. The transitions from one section of the work to another flowed with remarkable smoothness, establishing a greater sense of continuity than most artists seem to manage."
- Richard Wright, The Reporter, North Conway, NH
"In the first movement of Mozart's Sonata in B-flat, K333, Mr Pierce employed well planned nuances to elicit subtle ties int he delays of resolutions, thus keeping the individual phrases from running together. The lyric interpretation os the second movement was one of breathtaking beauty, while the playful articulation of the third movement provided an interesting Mozartean turn which brought the traditional balance of the Sonata form."
- Richard Wright, The Reporter, North Conway, NH
"In the C Major Etude, Op. 10, No. 1 Of Chopin, Mr. Pierce achieved a shimmering melody in the right hand passages which was countered by unusual drama int he left hand. In the familiar E Major Etude, the slower tempo of the concluding section placed a greater stress on the dignity of the melodic line than on the light facility one usually hears. The Revolutionary Etude, Op. 10, No. 12 by Chopin, was magnificent, a perfect combination of fire and a melancholic slavic romanticism."
- Richard Wright, The Reporter, North Conway, NH
"Joshua Pierce chose to introduce two works by Hanns Eisler, the Sonate fur Klavier, Op. 1 and his Klavierstucke fur Kinder, Op. 31. The Sonate evokes passion with its dance-like rhythms and powerful dynamics. Mr. Pierce achieved an amazing statement of melody, with remarkable releases and staccato textures which defied temporal and tonal conventions. The sense of classical form was clearer than in performances of many works of this period, a significant comment on the pianist's feeling for acoustic architecture. The unusual sonorities and the level of artistic challenge in the pierces earn Mr, Pierce high ratings and considerable admiration for his ability to integrate the disparate strands of the two works."
- Richard Wright, The Reporter, North Conway, NH
"In the Funerailles of Liszt, the extensive use of the left hand octaves was superb .... the control was incredible. Mr Pierce summoned ever-lasting power from the instrument in an astonishing performance. In Liszt's Sonneti del Petraca Nos. 47, 104 and 123, Mr Pierce's velvet smooth passages, with their incredible dynamics and ornamentation, were excellent ... lace-work and fiery execution, evoking moods from meditation to passion, were beautifully controlled ... organ-like in their sonority. Mr. Pierce's spectacular playing of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 was undoubtedly the evening's tour de force ... his pesante right-hand rhythms were excellent. The octave repeated notes were executed with clarity and precision, generating a level of excitement unprecedented in the concert .... and intensity of performance that clearly awed the audience.
- Richard Wright, The Reporter, North Conway, NH
"Mr. Pierce's performance of several Gottschalk compositions were lightly executed and humorous, reminiscent of Stephen Foster and French-creole melodies of the New Orleans era ... emotional overtones and humor treated with care without being overdone."
- Richard Wright, The Reporter, North Conway, NH
"Mr. Pierce's style and interpretation of various composers' works was well thought out and performed with amazingly intense accuracy ... His execution throughout the concert was flawless and without hesitation, a clear indication of his mastery on the musical thinking of each composer."
- Richard Wright, The Reporter, North Conway, NH
"Some parts of the Beethoven Waldstein Sonata tend to be performed by other artists in too organistic a style. However, Mr. Pierce tied the first movement (a favorite among Beethoven fans) in well with the whole work, both integrating and executing it with amazing articulation, clarity and an excellent sense of individual melodic passages. Not only was he able to convey the composer;s intentions, but he was able to do so with a remarkably individual and personal style. The talented musician is communicating to us."
- Richard Wright, The Reporter, North Conway, NH
"In the eight etudes from Op. 10 by Chopin, Mr Pierce's scale passages were viruostic, even and clear -- played with brilliance. His phrasing in the quiet and delicate passages of the Nocturne in E minor, Op. 72, No. 1, displayed a gift for lyricism -- that almost melancholy lyricism of Chopin which is difficult to capture"
- Richard Wright, The Reporter, North Conway, NH
"Joshua Pierce's rendition of Liszt displayed a fiery and dynamic interpretation of Romanticism in music ... The left hand octaves of the Funerailles and date Sonata were played with a dynamic fluency ... The gypsy spirit of the sixth Hungarian Rhapsody blended in carefully wrought balance in Mr. Pierce's performance. "
- Richard Wright, The Reporter, North Conway, NH
"Mr. Pierce's performance of the Prokofieff 7th Sonata was positively electric, vigorous and dancy in the way he was able to elicit individual voices within the complex texture of the work."
- Richard Wright, The Reporter, North Conway, NH,
"In his performance of the Banjo (American Sketch) by the America composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Mr. Pierce made the piano, in certain sections sound like a banjo -- electrifying, humorous and at the same time coquettishly impressionistic ... A rare and dazzling evening."
- The Irregular, Maine
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23
Headline - Excellent and Marvelous Concert - Joshua Pierce - a great pianist, an excellent, almost perfect concert... outstanding soloist (Tchaikovsky Concerto in B flat minor, Op. 23)
"Starting with the first movement, allegro non troppo e molto, one could not help but notice the masterful execution which was given by the American pianist Joshua Pierce... spontaneous feeling and emotion with great drive and exceptional sensibilities created great impact, fiery and brilliant playing which more than lived up to everyone's expectations. On ending the first movement, and upon noting his exceptional and unquestioned sensitivity, the public gave him a well-deserved applause upon feeling the vibrations of emotion which had captured all the strength with which the artist executed the first movement.
"Following with the next two movements, 'andante Semplice,' and 'Allegro con Fuoco,' which with their melodious sounds of peace and emotion, resonated over the entire hall which had emotionally taken every one of the listeners, to the dramatic and brilliant execution of the finale. The participation of Joshua Pierce as soloist in this concerto by Tchaikovsky was finished with a standing ovation, which was given strong and sincere."
- Viktor M. Batista Escandon, ZETA, Tijuana, Mexico