BRAHMS PIANO CONCERTO NO.1, STRAUSS BURLESKE
Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss
JOSHUA PIERCE, piano
SLOVAK PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA
CZECH NATIONAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Recorded Live At the Reduta, Bratislava
"[an] intriguing piano concerto album... a darkly dramatic performance in a spacious acoustic...with extremely impressive solo playing... [and] a reading of the Strauss which goes with a real swing."
[ * * * * ] BBC Music - February 2011
"... in Fanfare 29:6 (July/August 2006), I was tremendously impressed by Pierce’s MSR recording of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2, enthusing that it was as near perfect as one is likely to hear. So, naturally I looked forward to hearing him in Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and performance-wise, he did not disappoint. In fact, after repeatedly complaining that performances had become too slow, especially in the first movement, I was almost ready to pronounce Pierce’s reading too fast, for at 20:17 he plows through the first movement faster than either Pollini with Böhm (20:45) or Kapell with Mitropoulos (20:57), both of whom are lightning bolts compared to Ax with Levine (23:05), Zimerman with Rattle (23:27), and Gilels with Jochum (24:04). But the more I listened to Pierce’s performance the more convincing I found his tempos, which brought a heightened sense of drama and tension to the score."
Jerry Dubins, Fanfare - November/December 2010
"[This] is certainly a vigorous performance which seems to demonstrate a positive partnership between Pierce and Freeman... There is much effectively sensitive orchestral playing and particularly in the slow movement to accompany what is throughout a very fine performance by Joshua Pierce, a pianist who is clearly in control, both technically and emotionally, of this large canvas. The final Rondo is as it should be, a well-balanced and exuberant recreation."
Patric Standford, Music and Vision - September 2010
"... these performances by pianist Joshua Pierce are satisfyingly energetic and cast both works in the best possible light. His choices of tempo are bright throughout, and the live performance of the Brahms Third Movement almost gets away from him in spots but he manages to hold his audience at the edge of their seat. Joined by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra (Brahms) and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra (Strauss) under Paul Freeman, the orchestral backdrops are equally powerful and vigorous, truly exemplifying the rich symphonic nature of the Brahms. MSR's sound quality...captures the spirit of the live performances."
Mike D. Brownell, All Music Guide - June 2010
"Joshua Pierce and conductor Paul Freeman present a Brahms D Minor Concerto (1858) given at the Reduta (24 June 1993) in Bratislava, formerly Pressburg, during the so-called Velvet Revolution, some three years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the beginning of the dissolution of the Communist and Socialist regimes in Eastern Europe. Pierce plays the surly and tempestuous first movement as a dialogue between competing impulses in D Minor, D Major and F Major, an explosive outburst of sturm und drang versus a countermelody in the form of a hymn, espessivo. The hammer blows of fate seem to be pitted against nostalgic visions of lost hopes. Both Pierce and Freeman seem committed to making the development section of the movement with its ineluctable return via E Major over a pedal D as the climactic moment of the drama. The sonic balances between Pierce and often shrieking orchestral part are maintained by Otto Napp. The tympanist in this concerto as well as in the Strauss Burleske --with the Czech National Symphony --expends a full workout that makes a lasting impression...
The second movement in 6/4 and D Major gravitates to the distant key of F-sharp Minor, which might be an homage to the slow movement of Mozart’s Concerto No. 23. The brooding calm, made of scales and held notes, evolves into a chromatic fantasy that Brahms seems to have meant for elements of his German Requiem. The woodwind and French horn choirs of the Slovak Philharmonic prove especially pungent as much as the string choirs remain elegiac. Pierce’s upper registers glisten with pearly clarity, and his trills ring with exuberant energy. And so to the 2/4 gypsy rondo last movement, with its roots simultaneously in the bravura tradition of Beethoven and Haydn and the contrapuntal efforts of the Bach inventions and partitas, especially the orchestral fugato in B-flat Minor. The constant surges of staccato figures in the left hand opposed to legato periods in the right come as no dire challenge to Pierce, who negotiates the manic changes of meter and affect with stately aplomb. Even with the severe classical strictures imposed upon the seething passions in this music, Pierce and Freeman manage to infuse a sense of emotional abandon into the mix, a truly superheated effort appropriate to the occasion of the concert.
The big Scherzo in D Minor by Strauss, his Burleske, like the Brahms concerto, has all traits of a symphonic movement with piano obbligato. The tuned tympani prove as dazzling in their effects as the chromatic runs and wild leaps of the piano part, whose figures glide from ¾ to 6/4 with the same swagger as we find in virtuoso Chopin. Embedded into the cascading mix are “improvised “ waltz rhythms and echoes of Alt Wien. The skittish play of eighth and sixteenth notes often points to the irreverence of Till Eulenspiegel. [The] interplay between Piece and Freeman has bold colors and feline grace... a colossal sense of scope [is projected by] this collaboration... Much fun and bravura in this disc, given the relative frequency of the two scores as standards among record collectors."
Gary Lemco, Audiophile Audition - June 2010
"With the superb participation of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra under American conductor Paul Freeman, pianist Joshua Pierce gives one of the most stunning accounts I have ever heard of Brahms’ early masterwork. Recorded in May 1993 at the Reduta, Bratislava, both soloist and conductor must have fed on the energy generated by performing before a live audience. After a massive orchestral introduction, the piano enters on a series of trills that come across as shrieks, a countermelody in boldly expressive arpeggios, and hammered chords that work out the main theme in partnership with the orchestra. And we have not yet gotten to the development section, which will climax with a huge fortissimo heralding the start of the recapitulation. As conveyed to us by Pierce and Freeman, these are bold strokes indeed, and would appear even boldly were they merely gratuitous and not part of the rigorous logic with which the 20-minute movement develops.
The Adagio is characterized by calm scale passages over held notes, soft and delicate phrasing by the piano, and then a more lively, skipping melody over a rising bass line. The soloist is called upon to phrase a variety of arpeggios, trills and chromatic triplets, in the course of a movement that charms and seduces us with its immense lyrical beauty. The finale, a Rondo marked Allegro non troppo, brings forth the utmost in concentrated power and vivid expressiveness from both Pierce and the orchestra. A bouncing right hand thematic fragment rising through two octaves and set against a steady run of sixteenth notes gives you some idea of the difficulties the music sets for the pianist, with no let-up from the orchestra. Joshua Pierce handles them with consummate artistry that makes it sound almost easy. The music, which incorporates elements of fugue, simmers, seethes, and pulsates, giving way first to a quasi fantasia section and then a brilliant coda, on its way to a resolute finish heralded by a brief but memorable horn call.
Richard Strauss’ youthful Burleske comes across, in the hands of Joshua Pierce and with Freeman conducting the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Prague in a 1995 recording, as a madly scampering romp, just the sort of thing that Tyl Eulenspiegel might have written if he’d studied music. With no fewer than 21 expressive markings in its 22 minutes, Strauss’ scherzo for piano and orchestra keeps the listener continually off-balance with its unexpected changes, rapidly descending runs and swelling tones resulting from manic 3/4 and 6/8 alternations. That fits the idea of a “burlesque” itself as a form of exaggerated parody."
Phil Muse, Audio Society of Atlanta - April 2010
PROGRAM NOTESOne of the outstanding pianists of his generation, JOSHUA PIERCE is well-known for dynamic interpretations of a wide range of repertoire from the Classical, Romantic and Modern periods. Over the course of his career, Mr. Pierce has garnered outstanding reviews from a variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Gramophone, The Strad, London Telegraph, Billboard and dozens more.
His career has included solo performances and appearances with a long list of major international orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestra in Great Britain, as well as the Berlin Radio Symphony, Moscow State Philharmonic, Czech National Symphony, Slovak Philharmonic, Luxembourg Philharmonic, RAI Orchestra of Rome, and Capella Istropolitana in Slovakia. In the United States, he has appeared with the Utah Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Missouri Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta and at most of the major concert venues and series in New York.
In the chamber music setting, Mr. Pierce has performed with Russia’s Leontovich String Quartet, the Pierce-Aomori Duo, the New York Empire Trio and Chamber Players International. His 30-year collaboration with pianist Dorothy Jonas as part of the two-piano team Pierce & Jonas has resulted in numerous prize winning recordings and acclaimed performances, including a command performance for Britain’s Royal Family. A well-known contemporary music performer, Mr. Pierce is a Board Member and Official Pianist of the American Festival of MicroTonal Music, Inc.
As a recording artist, Joshua Pierce has a long list of Grammy nominations to his credit, and has documented nearly 200 works on more than 55 CDs, including the complete piano concertos of Beethoven, Brahms and Liszt and all of Gershwin's works for piano and orchestra. He has also recorded concerted works by Bach, Britten, Casella, Chopin, Gould, Khachaturian, Mendelssohn, Milhaud, Piston, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Respighi, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky and Tansman. His discography includes recordings on MSR Classics, EMI Classics, Sony Classical, Wergo, Pickwick, Koch, PITCH, Fanfare, Pro Arte, Albany, Varèse Sarabande, MMC, Phoenix and other labels.
Mr. Pierce has been a judge for many piano competitions and has served on the Board of the Fulbright Foundation. He is a winner of the GermanMusic Critics Prize, Fono Forum award, and Grand Prize of the IBLA International Competition for Contemporary Music and a nominee for the 23rd International Franz Liszt Grand Prix du Disque Prize of Hungary. Mr. Pierce has also performed extensively for public radio and television in the United States as well as in Germany, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia and South Korea.
Joshua Pierce was born in New York City and studied at the Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music and Columbia University. His principal teachers and mentors were Dorothy Taubman, Victor Babin, Arthur Loesser and Robert Goldsand. He also studied chamber music performance with pianist Artur Balsam and cellist Bernard Greenhouse of the famed Beaux Arts Trio.
JOHANNES BRAHMS: PIANO CONCERTO NO.1 IN D MINOR, OP.15
RICHARD STRAUSS: BURLESKE IN D MINOR, OP.11 AV.45
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JS BACH, HAYDN & MENDELSSOHN
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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
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Works for Piano and Orchestra
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