RACHMANINOFF: RHAPSODY ON A THEME OF PAGANINI
Casella and Respighi: Works for Piano & Orchestra
Alfredo Casella, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Ottorino Respighi
JOSHUA PIERCE, piano
R T V Slovenia Symphony Orchestra
New 2023 Digital Remastering
"Pianist Joshua Pierce offers us another huge musical feast by joining with the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra to perform works by Alfredo Casella, Ottorino Respighi and Sergei Rachmaninoff... Pierce with his passionate, poetic pianism again engages the symphony players in a symbiotic relationship to produce a stellar rendition of the compositions at hand, reminiscent of his past recordings in the MSR catalog... His newly released recording opens with a powerful, intoxicating rendition of Casella’s Partita for Piano and Orchestra, a complex rhythmic, relentless composition that captures its listener from first note to last. That performance opens us for an encounter with Respighi’s Toccata for Piano and Orchestrate, a superb entertainment reminiscent of the composer’s Pines of Rome and Fountains of Rome. Pierce’s renderings of the Casella and Respighi pieces serve to open the way for his outstanding, bravura, note perfect performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. As this masterpiece moves through its intricate facets, Pierce and the orchestra together catch fire and move to a triumphant ending. One may ask how it is that Piece works so well in his relationship with the orchestra such that they inspire each other to excel. The answer surely emanates from the number of years Pierce performed and recorded compositions for duo piano with his partner and pianist Dorothy Jonas, also found in the MSR catalog."
Joel C. Thompson, Cherry Grove Music Review [February 2024]
"Do I like Joshua Pierce or what? I’ve been pleased to review his previous recordings of concertos on this website on no fewer than six occasions
with orchestras conducted by Anglo-American conductor Kirk Trevor or the late Slovenian maestro Anton Nanüt...and my pleasure grows upon each new acquaintance with his work... [The work by Respighi] characterized by drive and intrigue [and] solid orchestral support enhances the sonority of Pierce’s piano in an effort to put across a work that will probably be in search of champions for the foreseeable future... Pierce and Nanüt manage [the Rachmaninoff] with a professionalism that inspires the greatest confidence in the listener."
Phil Muse, Atlanta Audio Club [January 2024]
"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]
The award-winning pianist Joshua Pierce
has distinguished himself as one of the leading performers of his generation as well as one of the most prolific recording artists in recent times, having recorded over 235 works on 65 CDs for labels such as MSR Classics, EMI Classics, Albany, VOX, Koch International, Naxos, JVC, Pro Arte, Mode, Virgin Classics, Sony Classical, BBC Recordings, Carlton Classics, Wergo, Varese Sarabande, PITCH, Solyd Recordings, and many others. His recordings include a wide-range of works from Bach, Chopin, Respighi, Respighi, Casella, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov to Bloch, Hindemith, Rachmaninoff, Strauss, Turok and Duke Ellingrton. This also includes the complete piano concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, Gershwin and Liszt. All of these recordings have received outstanding international recognition and awards. His collaboration with and performances and recordings of the music of the important 20th century American innovator - composer John Cage is historical and legendary. Apart from his recordings, Pierce maintains a very active career as a soloist and collaborative performer throughout the United States, South America, Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia with such orchestras as the Moscow State Philharmonic, State Symphony Orchestra of Russia, Philharmonia of London, Royal Philharmonic, Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, Czech National Symphony, Slovak Philharmonic, Slovak State Philharmonia, Slovak Radio Symphony, Slovak State Chamber Orchestra of Zilina, the Cappella Istropolitana of Bratislava, Luxembourg Philharmonic, Italian Radio Orchestra (RAI), Mexico City Philharmonic, Jalisco Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of Guadalajara and the Sinfonica Nacional of Peru. In the United States, he has appeared with the Utah Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Missouri Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta and the Philharmonia Virtuosi of New York, among others. He has also appeared at New York’s major concert venues including the 92nd St. Y, Symphony Space, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lefrak Auditorium, John Drew Theater / Guild Hall, East Hampton, The Kitchen, Roulette, Steinway Hall, The DiMenna Center For Classical Music, Merkin Hall, Alice Tully, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. He has also performed at the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series in Chicago, Amherst International Music Festival, International Piano Festival at Williams College, Seattle Festival of Contemporary Music, Music Mountain Chamber Music Festival and the Philips Collection in Washington D.C. His many International performances include performances at Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, Barbican Centre, Royal Festival Hall, Bergen International Music Festival in Norway, Victoria Hall in Geneva, Los Veranos de la Villa Festival in Madrid, Rote Fabrique, ISCM Festivals in Zurich, Moscow, Kazan and Venice, ISCM Europe-Asia 2000, The Sigurjon Olaesson Museum in Reykjavik, Festival of Russian Composers’ Unon Music Series and the International Alternativa Festival in Moscow. He has performed as soloist and collaborator in all the major cities in South Korea. Highly regarded as a chamber music collaborator, he has performed with Russia’s Leontovich String Quartet, Pierce-Aomori clarinet and piano duo, Chamber Players International and with violinists Eric Friedman and Andrew Smith and with cellist Jeffrey Solow. In the United States, he has been heard on nationally syndicated radio programs including Morning Pro Musica (WGBH), WQXR’s First Hearing, John Schaefer’s New Sounds, NPR’s All Things Considered and David Dubal’s The American Century and Reflections From the Keyboard. Pierce continues to win critical praise for his versatility, power musical intelligence and deeply felt interpretations. He has had major awards and citations from such American and European publications as International Who’s Who, Downbeat, Billboard, Fanfare, Keyboard Magazine, Cashbox, Heavy Metal, the coveted German Music Critics Prize, Germany’s Fono Forum, France’s Diapason Award, Grand Prize of the IBLA International Competition for Contemporary Music and was a nominee for the 23rd International Franz Liszt Grand Prix du Disque of Hungary. He has received five PSC-CUNY Research Award Grants and is a Foundation Award winner from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. He is a multiple Grammy Award Nominee and has served several years on the International Fulbright Committee. He is listed in Who’s Who in America and is the recipient of that publication’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
(1932-2017) was the chief conductor of the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra in Ljubljana in which capacity he made more than 150 CDs. Nanüt was born in Slovenia and studied at the Ljubljana Music Academy. He was the conductor of the Dubrovnik City Orchestra and the Slovenian Philharmonic before taking over the RTV Symphony Orchestra in 1981. He toured extensively in the United States and Mexico as well as in many parts of Europe.
The RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra
was founded as the principal orchestra of the national radio and television broadcasting system in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Its activities include extensive concert performances and recordings with many labels and with various major artists and conductors.
PARTITA FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA (1925)
TOCCATA FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA (1928)
RHAPSODY ON A THEME OF PAGANINI, OP.43 (1931)
Special thanks to Regis Benoit for his generous support of this project.