"It pleases me to be able to give this entry a positive review... the recordings that constitute the contents of this disc are of excellent sound quality... [Pierce's] performances on this one, playing a modern Steinway grand, are every bit as charming and attuned to the letter and spirit of the music... [Pierce] demonstrates here once again, as he did in his fantastic Brahms No. 2 reviewed in 29:6, that he is a pianist of consummate technique and musical aptitude. This deserves a recommendation."
Jerry Dubins, Fanfare - November/December 2010
"Joshua Pierce has made a wonderful Schubert disc. He plays these lovely pieces with charm and enormous feeling, expressed without exaggeration."
Turok's Choice, Issue No.225 - October 2010
"Pierce takes his own unique temperamental leanings and applies them directly to the notes of the score without any predispositions. Schubert is big enough to take a lot of varied interpretive nuances, and Pierce’s have a lot of clarity and insight... This program is an attractive one... MSR’s sound is very good, slightly dry (in keeping with the pianist’s style), but also well-placed sonically. A fine issue."
Steve Ritter, Audiophile Audition - September 2010
"[a] fascinating recital..."
Robert Anderson, Music & Vision - September 2010
"In the keenly anticipated follow-up to Volumes I-II of his Schubert series, Joshua Pierce gives us a selection of piano pieces as delightful as they are mostly unfamiliar. Many represent the most warmly human side of a composer who, though he was not a dancer himself, was always willing to oblige his friends at social gatherings by improvising waltzes and German dances (sometimes called Ländler) at the piano...
The feeling of dance music is often present in other Schubert pieces that were not so designated. That includes the Three Impromptus, D946 (often called Klavierstücke) that were published by no less a figure than Johannes Brahms forty years after Schubert’s death. The name is misleading in that it doesn’t take into account the emotional and musical gravity of these pieces, for which “impromptu” seems too lightweight a term. Pierce does a splendid job capturing the dark mood and turbulence of the opening of No. 1 in E-flat minor, which contrasts beautifully with the warmer, more expansive middle section. No. 2 in E-flat Major is marked by Schubert’s tonal ambiguity and bold modulations, all the way down to a contrasting section in A-flat minor (7 flats required) with cadences in C-flat Major and C-flat minor. The main section is in the style of a Barcarolle with its characteristic lilt. No. 3 in C Major is altogether happier and more spontaneous than its mates, with a breathless urgency that Pierce captures very well, as he does its syncopated main theme and the hypnotic effect of the repeated notes in its hymn-like middle section.
Since Schubert is famed as the author of the “Unfinished” Symphony, it should come as no surprise to discover that he left unfinished works in other genres, too. (His boundless inspiration must have frequently exceeded his supply of manuscript paper). Of the pieces heard here, the gracious Andante in C, D29 is an extract from an unfinished string quartet, and the Andante in E, D612, with its elaborate trills, scale passages and chromatics, is the tantalizing remnant of a projected piano sonata. The early Minuet and Trio in A, D334 is very much in the classical style, while the highly expressive Klavierstück in A, D604 deserves a better fate than its long neglect. Pierce concludes the program with a real discovery: Schubert’s Variations on a Theme by Anselm Hüttenbrenner, D546, in which he has a grand time with the composer’s off-beat and broken chords, contrasts in legato and staccato phrasings, running 16th notes in one hand against a steady pulse in the other, octaves set against 32nd notes, and other sorts of fun with rhythm, metre and time."
Phil Muse, Audio Society of Atlanta - April 2010
PROGRAM NOTESIn Schubert’s day, the piano, barely emerged from the shadow of the harpsichord, had two very different personalities. It was the instrument of a whole generation of flashy public virtuosi out to impress the public with flying-finger fantasias and sets of variations on popular tunes of the day. But there was a piano in every parlor, a young lady or poetic young man at every keyboard and a whole new repertoire of songs, songful piano pieces and dance music to suit.It was of course, this latter kind of music at which Franz Schubert excelled. The German word Hausmusik translates very nicely into ‘house music’ and, while the tradition of music-making in the middle European middle-class home would certainly have developed without him, it was Schubert who took hausmusik to its first great artistic heights.
It would, of course, be easy to think of Viennese hausmusik as a well-mannered pastime of the bourgeoisie but Schubert’s own home life was anything but well-mannered or conventionally bourgeois. He was, in fact, an early example of what would nowadays be called a Bobo—a Bourgeois Bohemian. He spent most of his brief adult life in a reprobate society of artists and ne’er-do-wells that was marked by excess—sexual, alcoholic and otherwise. Much of the time, Schubert did not even really have a proper home of his own; he spent his time hanging out with his pals and sponging off them. In return for friendship, love and material assistance, he became their musical muse. This was not a small matter; song and dance were essential elements of their life-style.
Schubert was one of those Mozartian-style prodigies from whom music flowed in seemingly endless quantities. On any and all occasions, our hero simply sat at the piano and spun out whatever kind of music was required. Fortunately, this stream of music, much of it originally improvised, quickly came to take on definitive notated form. Some of it was even published and performed in the piano parlors of a less bohemian Vienna. Although the stories of Schubert’s poverty and presumed neglect are legion, he was in fact highly appreciated in his own circle and, if he had managed to survive longer, he would certainly have become a celebrated and successful composer in his native town. After his death, enough manuscript music was discovered to keep publishers and performers awash in new Schubert works for years; how much was lost we’ll never know.
It should not be thought that Schubert’s keyboard creations are entirely lacking in virtuosity. Quite the contrary, this music, like that of Beethoven, sometimes requires the highest level of finger dexterity. More often than not, what is needed is the kind of technical skill that hides technical skill, that makes the difficult and the awkward sound easy and expressive and that recreates the easy and convivial atmosphere out of which it grew. No artist before the public today combines all these attributes better than Joshua Pierce whose three Schubertian CDs offer ample testimony to this.
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JOSHUA PIERCE, one of the most uniquely gifted pianists of our time, adds vivid and exciting interpretations of Schubert to his vast collection of classical, romantic and modern pianism. Mr. Pierce's recordings of the complete Beethoven Piano Concertos and of works from the romantic world of Liszt and Brahms form an extraordinary testimony to the mastery and enormous range of an artist who is also known for his performances of twentieth century repertoire from Gershwin to Cage and beyond. This huge range and varied repertoire—encompassing the standard repertoire, contemporary work and rediscovered masterpieces of the past—is unique among contemporary pianists.
Mr. Pierce has been heard throughout the world in many of the most prestigious music centers and has performed with major orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic; Philharmonia Orchestra; Luxembourg Radio Symphony; Chicago Sinfonietta; Philharmonia Virtuosi of New York; Utah, Missouri and San Antonio Symphony Orchestras; Mexico City Philharmonic; Orchestra Philharmonic of Jalisco; Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra; RAI Orchestra Rome; Sinfonetta of Zilina; Orchestra of Polish Radio & Television; Czech National Symphony; Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic; Kapelle Istropolitana; Slovak State Philharmonic and the Moscow State Philharmonic. In 1993, he made an exciting debut in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.1 with the State Symphony Orchestra of Russia at Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow. In 2005, he premiered the 95-minute Revelation by Michael Harrison at Merkin Hall in New York, and on the West Coast in Los Angeles to tremendous critical acclaim. He subsequently gave the first European performance of the work in Wroclaw, Poland in 2007. With the Slovak Radio Symphony on Slovak Television, Pierce gave the first televised performance in Eastern Europe of the complete and restored Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue. His performance of the restored Rhapsody together with Gershwin’s Concerto in F was simulcast in 19 countries.
Also a highly sought after chamber musician, Pierce has collaborated in countless performances throughout the world, including the Cage Musicircus Memorial Concert at Symphony Space in New York; Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series in Chicago; Phillips Collection; New York and Boston Microfest concerts; ISCM Festivals in Seattle, Zurich and Venice; ISCM Europe-Asia 2000; Festival of Russian Composers’ Union Music Series in Moscow; Futurismo & Futurismi Festival in Italy; Barbican Centre and Royal Festival Hall in London; Bergen International Music Festival of Norway and festivals at Amherst and Trenton. He has performed at most of the major concert venues and series in New York City, including Alice Tully Hall, Roulette, Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall and Weill Recital Hall, and has appeared and given master classes at the State University of New York at Purchase and Stony Brook; Washington and Lee University; Youngstown University; Williams College; University of Pittsburgh; University of Maryland; Western Reserve Academy and at Bucknell. In the United States, he has been heard on nationally syndicated radio including John Schaefer’s New Sounds, George Jellinek’s First Hearing, Peter Schickele’s Schickele Mix, National Pubic Radio’s All Things Considered and David Dubal’s Reflections from the Keyboard. Recent chamber music performances include works by Beethoven, Brahms, Chausson, Dvorak, Glinka, Mozart, Rachmaninov, Schubert and Schumann.
Mr. Pierce’s 30-year association with the music of the late John Cage is legendary. He has made many first recordings of Cage’s music and recorded his great cycle of Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano several times: for Public Radio International, Sony Classical, Wergo (Germany), ANTS Records (Italy) and SoLyd Recordings (Moscow). He has introduced Cage’s work to Eastern Europe where it was long banned under the old regime and his performances of Cage, Ives and Wyschnegradsky at “Joshua Pierce: Live at the Dom/Alternativa Festival 2000” was the first live performance and recording by a Western artist in post-Soviet Russia.
Joshua Pierce’s many recordings have been released on theMSR Classics, Albany, Carlton Classics, Centaur, Fanfare, Kleos, Koch International, Mastersound, MMC, PITCH, Premiere, Pro Arte, Sony Classical, Vox, Varèse Sarabande and Wergo labels. Pierce has several Grammy Award nominations to his credit, and citations of excellence from such American publications as Downbeat, Billboard, Cashbox, Turok’s Choice, Keyboard Magazine, Heavy Metal and Jazzmania.
Grand Prize Winner of the IBLA International Music Competition in 2003, Mr. Pierce is a Board Member and Official Pianist of the American Festival MicroTonal Music (AFMM), and has served as a judge for several international music competitions including the Center for Contemporary Opera. He has also served on the Board of the International Fulbright Commission. Born in New York City, Joshua Pierce studied on scholarship at the Juilliard School, Cleveland Institute of Music, Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University. His principal teachers and mentors were Dorothy Taubman, Artur Balsam, Arthur Loesser, Victor Babin and Robert Goldsand.
THE DEVIL'S TRILL
RUSSIAN PIANO CONCERTOS
JS BACH, HAYDN & MENDELSSOHN
Piano Concertos JOSHUA PIERCE
PERSICHETTI: LEGACY OF SONGS
Unpublished Songs on Poetical Texts JOSHUA PIERCE
BACH, HINDEMITH & BLOCH
J.S.Bach: Keyboard Concerto BWV 1052; JOSHUA PIERCE
Song Cycle for Soprano and Piano, Op.50
Poems JOSHUA PIERCE
JOHN CAGE: A TRIBUTE
In Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of JOSHUA PIERCE
LISZT: 3 PIANO CONCERTOS; TOTENTENZ
BRAHMS, LISZT & FRANCK
Works for Piano and Orchestra