JOSHUA PIERCE

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RACHMANINOV: PAGANINI VARIATIONS

RACHMANINOV: PAGANINI VARIATIONS

Respighi: Toccata for Piano and Orchestra
Casella: Partita for Piano and Orchestra

Alfredo Casella, Sergei Rachmaninov, Ottorino Respighi

JOSHUA PIERCE, piano
Rtv Symphony Orchestra of Slovenia
Anton Nanut

[MS1176]

$12.95

LISTEN
REVIEWS
"...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...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...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...A lesser pianist may quickly lose the listener's interest, but Pierce manages to pull it off..."
All Music Guide - November 2006
"Pierce's impressive Paganini is coupled with...important large-scaled but rarely-heard works by Respighi and Casella...Marvelous piano playing and fine accompaniments..."
Turok's Choice - October 2006
PROGRAM NOTES
THE ITALIAN CONNECTION
Here are three seemingly disparate works: one influential in its day, another long forgotten and a third, one of the best-known and best-loved works of its kind. Yet, in spite of the many differences in origin and musical between these two Italians and a pianist/composer from Russia, there are many lines of connection. They are all non-standard concerted works for piano and orchestra and all three were written as vehicles for the composers themselves to play on tour in the United States. Two had their premieres in Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic; the other first appeared in Baltimore with the touring Philadelphia Orchestra and also turned up at Carnegie not very long thereafter.

There are other, deeper connections. All are modernist pieces with strong connections to tradition. And there is even a connection between the revival of Italian instrumental music in the early twentieth century and the evolution of Russian music. The classical tradition was, of course, originally Italian; Italian instrumental music held its own until the 19th century when it was overwhelmed by opera. Italian classicism was well established in Russia in the 18th century. Paesiello wrote his once-famous "Barber of Seville" for the court opera of St. Petersburg, a town built in pure classical style by an Italian. A century and a quarter afterwards, Igor Stravinsky did a take on the Italian 18th century for Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet in Paris; "Pulcinella," inspired by commedia dell’arte and Pergolesi, marks the beginning of musical neo-classicism.

All the works on this album can be regarded as neo-classical. Even Stravinsky’s arch-rival and nemesis, the ultra-Romantic Sergei Rachmaninov, eventually succumbed to the lure of Pulcinella, the commedia dell’arte and Italian classicism.

*   *   *

Grammy nominated pianist, Joshua Pierce, one of the most versatile virtuosi of our time, was born in New York City and studied at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, Cleveland Institute of Music and Columbia University; his principal teachers and mentors were Dorothy Taubman, Artur Balsam, Victor Babin, Arthur Loesser and Robert Goldsand. His extensive career includes performances in recital, as a soloist with chamber ensembles, including Russia's famed Leontovich String Quartet and Chamber Players International, Inc. He has been heard throughout the world in many of the most prestigious music centers and has performed as a soloist with an impressive array of major orchestras in the New World and the Old including the Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia of London, Luxembourg Radio Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta, Philharmonia Virtuosi of New York, Utah Symphony, Missouri Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Mexico City Philharmonic, Orchestra Philharmonic of Jalisco, Berlin Radio Symphony, RAI Orchestra of Rome, Czech Radio Orchestra, Czech National Symphony, Slovak Philharmonic, Slovak State Chamber Orchestra Zelina, Moscow State Philharmonic, Russian State Symphony and the State Symphony of Russia at Tchaikovsky Hall, Moscow, where he made a highly successful debut in 1993 performing Liszt's Piano Concerto No.1 in E-flat major. His huge range and varied repertoire are unique among contemporary pianists ranging from the prepared piano works of John Cage to the masterpieces of the standard repertoire to rediscovered concerted masterpieces of the high romantic era.

Mr. Pierce's many recordings on the Albany, Carlton Classics, Centaur, Fanfare, Helicon, Koch International, Mastersound, MNC, Phoenix, Premiere, Pro Arte, Sony Classics, Virgin Classics, Vox, Varese Sarabande, and Wergo labels, include familiar and lesser-known concerted works by Brahms, Casella, Chopin, Czerny, Gershwin, Hummel, Khachaturian, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev, Reinecke, Rachmaninov, Respighi, Shostakovich, Richard Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Weber. Other composers performed and recorded by Mr. Pierce include Ives, Cowell, Harry Partch, Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Stravinsky, Toru Takemitsu and La Monte Young. It was the success of his recording of the Brahms B-flat Concerto with the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic under Kirk Trevor that led directly to live performances of the Franck and Liszt with the same forces and to the inclusion of all three works on this disc. Joshua Pierce's long identification with the music of Liszt includes recordings of the first three concertos, soon to be available on MSR.

Joshua Pierce has also performed extensively for public radio and television in the United States and for PRI in many parts of Europe. A long list of contemporary and traditional music performances includes the Cage Musicircus Memorial Concert at Symphony Space in New York, Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series in Chicago, AFMM Microfest Concerts, Barbican Centre/London, 4th ISCM Europe-Asia 2000 Music Festival, Festival "Music of Friends"/Russian Composers Union Music Series/Moscow, Alternativa Music Festival 2000/Moscow, Bergen International Music Festival/Norway, ISCM Festivals in Seattle and Zurich, Switzerland, the Futurismo & Futurismi Festival in Venice, Italy, festivals at Amherst and Trenton, Music Mountain Chamber Music Festival, international Piano Festival at Williams College/Williamstown, Massachusetts as well as appearances at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and Purchase, Washington and Lee University, University of Maryland and Bucknell University among others.

Mr. Pierce is a board member of the American Festival of Microtonal Music, and is the official pianist of the AFMM Ensemble. He has also served as a judge for several international music competitions and on the board of the International Fulbright Commission. On February 10, 2005, he premiered the 95-minute "Revelation" by Michael Harrison at Merkin Hall in New York and followed by the West-Coast Premiere in Los Angeles.

In addition to his solo career, Mr. Pierce and the pianist Dorothy Jonas make up the Pierce/Jonas Duo - one of the most imaginative and compelling duo-piano teams in the world today. The Duo has performed throughout the United States, Mexico, Europe and South America, appearing with major orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia, Radio-Television Orchestras of Poland and Luxembourg, Chicago Sinfonietta, Slovak Philharmonic, State Philharmonic of Kocise, Orchestra da Camera di Roma and the symphony orchestras of Houston, San Antonio, Utah, Mexico City and elsewhere. The Duo’s disc of Mendelssohn’s Two-Piano Concertos is believed to be the first complete and unabridged recordings of these works. The Duo has received over 15 Grammy Award nominations to date and they have introduced and recorded many important twentieth-century works by such composers as Benjamin, Berezowsky, Britten, Creston, Gould, Harris, Malipiero, Martinu, Piston, Rozsa, Tansman and others. Their recordings have ranged from John Cage's "Three Dances for Two Prepared Pianos"and Charles Ives' "Three Quarter-Tone Pieces for Two Pianos" to the complete two-piano works of Mozart; to Broadway music of Bernstein, Rodgers, Hamlisch, Hermann and Lloyd Webber.

PROGRAM
SERGEI RACHMANINOV
Paganini Variations

OTTORINO RESPIGHI
Toccata for Piano and Orchestra

ALFREDO CASELLA
Partita for Piano and Orchestra



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