BEETHOVEN: COMPLETE PIANO CONCERTOSAnd other Works for Piano and Orchestra
Ludwig van Beethoven
JOSHUA PIERCE, piano
Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra
Bystrik Rezucha, Conductor
Special 3-CD Set
"Stupendous is the word that erupted in my mind to sum up my listening experience of the three MSR Classics CDs that comprise pianist Joshua Pierce’s rendition of the Beethoven piano concertos... with regard to Pierce and the Slovak orchestra, there is something spontaneous, powerfully alive and fantastic about this particular set of recordings that puts them in their own league... you will find this set of recordings magical in bringing alive the energy, virtuosity, awe and wonder... Being busy listening to other music and working on a farm and as a newsman, I had not heard Beethoven’s piano concertos for a number of years. Pierce and the Slovak orchestra brought back my love of them and Beethoven as a composer."
Joel C. Thompson, Cherry Grove Music Review [January 2022]
"Joshua Pierce definitely knows his Beethoven and plays all of these concertos and various other movements very well...The sound is quite good...Bystrik Rezucha conducts with plenty of energy...if one is in the market for a set of piano concertos, then "Give Pierce a Chance" — and please pardon the pun.
All Music Guide [November 2007]
"Joshua Pierce is an excellent pianist [with a] lightness of touch that doesn’t 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. 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, Pierce’s work is consistent... He and conductor Režucha maintain tempos at a good clip...but they don’t 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 you’re curious about the rarities, Pierce makes a fine case for them, and his performances of the Big Five stand high among other recent efforts."
Fanfare [September/October 2007]
"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'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 characterised solo playing. [In this set] the performances are never less than involving, technically commanding and delightful."
Gramophone [June 2007]
"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]
"I am listening to Beethoven again, after many years of disregard for his music, which I realized, was due to the so-called ‘German-style’ interpretation of Beethoven, with ponderous tempos and overstated dynamic contrast. This past spring, something clicked when I heard the Moonlight Sonata performed by Joshua Pierce – the Kirnberger temperament helped a lot, but its is through Joshua’s interpretation that I was able to rediscover Beethoven - I am now enjoying Joshua Pierce’s newly-released triple CD set of Beethoven's five piano concertos...How does Joshua Pierce play Beethoven? How is it different? What’s magical about it? Is it the emphasis on rhythmic groupings, creating timbre with rhythms, or the utter lack of exaggeration, the fluidity, the simplicity, even? ... [The] special quality of balanced self-expression is what makes Joshua’s interpretation unique, in its unpretentious but dazzling clarity. No exaggeration here, no excessive rubato or aggressive dynamics. It makes Beethoven’s music come through exactly as it did historically, somewhere between Mozart and Schubert."
Sequenza 21 [February 2007]
"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]
PROGRAM NOTESThe Beethoven that looms so large on our musical landscape is Beethoven the Composer. It was Beethoven, after all, who defined the modern idea of who and what a composer is.
But the 22-year-old young man who arrived in Vienna in 1792 was about to make a slightly different reputation in the salons of that music-loving city. Beethoven was a keyboard player and he was about to stake his claim to be the best pianist in town. This was no mean feat in a city that was said to have had 300 pianists-in-residence and thousands of piano students, many of them the offspring of the best families. Favorite pianists were like prizefighters or rappers. Each man had his patrons and followers and Beethoven often had to defend his title in pianistic matches or duels that were held regularly in the houses of the aristocracy.
What did Beethoven sound like? The first thing we have to realize is that the piano of Beethoven’s day – we would call it a fortepiano – was a much lighter instrument than the modern concert grand and the virtuosi of the late eighteenth century affected a refined and elegant style that worked very well on these instruments. Beethoven, on the other hand, pushed the fortepiano to its very limits. His playing struck his contemporaries with its power and its brilliance as well its emotional resonance. In fact, Beethoven’s style triggered the development of more rugged and more powerful instruments, an evolution that started in his own lifetime and which eventually led to the modern grand piano.
But there is something else. When we think of Beethoven the pianist we have to put out of our minds the traditional image of the classical pianist playing revered old music to a hushed and reverent public. The music Beethoven played was contemporary music. Most of it was his own music and, as far as we can tell, much of it was made up on the spot. In short, Beethoven, like a jazz pianist, made himself famous by improvising new music in the homes of the Viennese nobility where he was a welcome guest. Many of these aristocrats became his patrons, supporters and even friends and their names are liberally sprinkled as dedicatees throughout the title pages of his publications: Prince Karl Lichnowsky, Princess Christiane Lichnowsky, Count Johann Georg von Browne-Camus, Prince Franz Joseph Lobkowitz, Archduke Rudolph, Count Andreas Razumofsky, Count Moritz Fries, Baron Gottfried van Swieten, Count Waldstein, the Brunsvicks and the Brentanos. Indeed, no composer before or after ever had such a list of princely supporters as did this strange, swarthy, prowling, difficult, improvising maestro of the keyboard.
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. Pierce's long identification with the music of Liszt includes recordings of the first three concertos, soon to be available on MSR.
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 late pianist Dorothy Jonas made 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 received more than 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.
PROGRAMLUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Piano Concerto No.1
Piano Concerto No.2
Piano Concerto No.3
Piano Concerto No.4
Piano Concerto No.5 "Emperor"
Piano Concerto in E-flat major, WoO 4
Romance Cantabile for Piano, Flute, Bassoon & Orchestra
Rondo for Piano in B-flat, WoO 6
RACHMANINOFF: RHAPSODY ON A THEME OF …
Casella and Respighi: Works for Piano & JOSHUA PIERCE
MOZART: COMPLETE SONATAS FOR VIOLIN …
Special 6-CD Limited Edition SMITH-PIERCE …
BRITTEN, MILHAUD, FINZI & R. STRAUSS
Works for Piano and Orchestra JOSHUA PIERCE
Showpieces for Piano and Orchestra JOSHUA PIERCE
THE DEVIL'S TRILL
Music for Violin and Piano …
RUSSIAN PIANO CONCERTOS
JS BACH, HAYDN & MENDELSSOHN
Piano Concertos JOSHUA PIERCE
PERSICHETTI: LEGACY OF SONGS
Unpublished Songs on Poetical Texts SHERRY …
BACH, HINDEMITH & BLOCH
J.S.Bach: Keyboard Concerto BWV 1052; JOSHUA PIERCE