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Early Romantic Works for Piano and Orchestra

Carl Czerny, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Felix Mendelssohn, Carl Reinecke, Carl Maria Von Weber

Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra
Bystrik Rezucha, Conductor



"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 virtuosos in the day - either themselves or others. Mendelssohn's Rondo Brillante in E-flat major 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."
Gramophone [July 2007]
"It is both interesting and instructive to experience the works of music's great masters in the context of the lesser lights whose music was being written and performance at about the same time. A recent release on MSR Classics by pianist Joshua Pierce provides this opportunity with a collection of shorter works for piano and orchestra by early Romantic composers...Joshua Pierce gives splendid performances of these pieces, and the Slovak State Philharmonic of Kosice provides adequate accompaniment led by Bystrik Rezucha...The sound engineering is fine, and the program notes by Eric Salzman give good historical context for the program...the whole production is first class."
New York Law Journal [2007]
"Pianist Joshua Pierce has assembled a quintet of virtuoso concert works by a diverse set of Romantic composers, a series...certainly demonstrative of digital prowess...[The Weber] finds in Pierce a passionate advocate of its several labyrinthine episodes... Exuberant and self-assured, [Mendelssohn's] 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."
Audiophile Audition [June 2007]
"Pierce is a fine player..[he] plays with great rhythmic vitality and energy...his passagework is crystal clear."
MusicWeb International [March 2007]
"Pierce plays viruosically; his interpretations are as enjoyable as the music..."
Turok's Choice [February 2007]
"[Rondo Brillante] is an imaginative blend of early romantic works for piano and orchestra...Pierce makes [the Hummel] a heady romp, handily rivaling [Chandos artist] Howard Shelley 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 [with] crystal clear tone...In the Mendelssohn, Pierce once again goes to town - it's an exhilarating affair, yet entirely at the service of the music...The Reinecke is a real find! Pierce responds with solid tone and an affecting gravitas, well supported by the Slovak players...this is a major addition to the romantic piano literature...Pierce's buoyant approach [to the Czerny] adds to the fun...there's more than enough here to recommend this one"
American Record Guide [September/October 2006]
The early romantic period was the heroic age of pianism. Every parlor had its piano and every well-brought-up young lady took lessons from as handsome, as poetic, and as swashbuckling a budding piano virtuoso as her family could afford. These young lions wrote easy pieces for their still younger charges and showy, difficult-sounding pieces for themselves to play in public – with orchestra if possible. Some of these showpieces were simply designated Concertstück (like the pianists themselves, most of whom seemed to be named Carl, this could be spelt with a ‘C’ or a ‘K’,). The title can be translated either as "Concert Piece" or "Concerted Movement" and the form itself can be somewhat unconventional. Another popular title and a more specific musical type is the Rondo, a old and traditional musical format newly minted under the glittering French or Italian title of "Brillant" or "Brilliante". The rondo itself started out as the rondeau of French poetry. Later, Italianized as rondo (or, more properly rondò), it became the favorite finale form in classical music and, starting in the French baroque and continuing well into the 19th century, often appeared as an independent solo keyboard piece. In all cases, the hallmark of the rondo is that it keeps returning to its main tune or refrain after excursions to other themes and keys (usually diagrammed as ‘ABABA,’ ‘ABACABA’ or something similar). In the early romantic period, the rondo brillant came to designate a popular keyboard piece – solo or with orchestra – designed to show off the nimble and flying fingers of our handsome and dashing virtuoso soloist. Rondo brillant becomes almost a category unto itself with its highly ornamented slow introduction, the fast tempo of its main section and the highly decorated solo part with its mixture of style and showoff; the form is usually a "rondo sonata" rather than a classic rondo. A calculated mixture of elegance and graciousness on the one hand and flying finger flash on the other is typical of the age; the combination of grazioso and brillante might almost be said to sum up the esthetic of early romantic pianism.

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.

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.

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, 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.
Carl REINECKE (1824-1910)
Concertstück in G minor, Op.33

Johann Nepomuk HUMMEL (1778-1837)
Introduzione and Rondo Brillant in A major, Op.56

Carl CZERNY (1791-1857)
Introduction and Rondo Brillante in B-flat minor, Op.255 

Carl MARIA VON WEBER (1786-1826)
Concertstück in F minor, Op.79

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Rondo Brillante in E-flat major, Op.29

MSR Classics
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Piano Concertos JOSHUA PIERCE

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