Joshua Pierce - prepared piano (1-19), piano (20-24)
Johnny Reinhard - bassoon (23,24)
Mike Ellis - saxophone (24)
Joshua Pierce is critically acclaimed as one of today's most versatile, exciting and original pianists. He is renowned as a "thoroughly musical and brilliant modern interpreter" of the standard repertoire and is widely recognized as an important exponent of contemporary music. Mr. Pierce commands a vast repertoire and has played with many prestigious orchestras in Eastern and Western Europe, Latin America and the United States. He has served as a judge for several piano competitions including the International Center for Contemporary Opera and has served on the board of the United States Fulbright Commission for four years. Mr. Pierce has recorded for Helicon, Hallmark, Mastersound, MMC, Phoenix, Premier, Sony Classics, Platinum Entertainment and Carlton Classics (PolyGram). For more information about Joshua Pierce, visit his website at http://www.jamesarts.com/pierce/index2.html.
"The measure of Joshua Pierce's greatness as a contemporary music pianist has been his awesome performances of the extended/exhaustive modern masterpieces, among them John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes (...), which are keyboard challenges that separate giants from duffers."
-Richard Kostelanetz, writer, artist, and critic April. 2005
"Joshua Pierce, a pianist of genius..."
- On The Scene (Where we've been, who we've seen)/The Improper Magazine
"With an intellect as complex as it is daring, and a heart as warm as God's green earth, Joshua Pierce is a pianist for the ages. With seemingly casual ease, he moves from Cage to Liszt to Richard Rodgers as if he grew up in their very households. This is an artist who knows no boundaries. Joshua, you inspire me!"
- Kirk Nurock, Composer, May 29, 2003
"Mr. Pierce is an accomplished pianist who has tackled works by some of the world's greatest composers; it's instructive that he found himself drawn to the work of Cage, a true innovator who collaborated with Mr. Pierce in recording his works. (...)."
"The 19 individual works that make up Cage's "Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano" were written over a two-year period beginning in 1946. They playfully intermingle the various sounds produced by the distorted piano strings, blending rhythms and melodic themes into the kind of quirky music produced decades later by synthesizers."
"The piano is, of course, a percussion instrument, and that is never more apparent than after it has been prepared a la Cage. Some keys, when struck, produce thumps and thuds that are strictly percussive; some ring like bells, some buzz and rattle. In certain cases, they produce unmistakable sounds that simply seem out of place coming from a grand piano: for example, keys that reproduce, with stunning accuracy, the sound of a chiming grandfather clock."
"Cage's "Sonatas and Interludes" are not grand in scale, but they are intriguing and riveting, dark and complex, pulled back from the brink of discordance by delicate interplay. Mr. Pierce played each individual work with the confidence of someone who knows the territory, seemingly singing the odd foreign language with a native's tongue. With his skilled guidance, the work becomes not merely odd, but fascinating, hinting at the musical mysteries that first attracted the composer to such uncharted territory."
"Johnny Reinhard and Joshua Pierce performed in a bassoon and piano duo, in the Meditations on a Theme from the Day of Existence, originally for cello and piano by the one of the first pioneers of microtonal music, Ivan Wyschengradsky...Atonal, romantic piece, which alternated between the spirited and the exalted, yet with a more lyrical and tragic mood. The performance by Reinhard and Pierce, possibly the very first ever in Russia, was one of the most inspired ones they have ever played together. They performed in an unsurpassably virtuosic and invigorated way. After the performance, the audience applauded wildly, cheered and waved to show their extreme appreciation of both the piece and their performance."
- Anton Rovner, Musica Ukranica Online Magazine, Odessa, Ukraine July 31, 2004
LIVE AT THE DOM / ALTERNATIVA FESTIVAL / MOSCOW, RUSSIA. ... "SoLyd Records (SLR-0303) has finally released the long promised CD with the recording of the recital, which American pianist Joshua Pierce gave on April 22, 2000 at the Moscow "Alternativa" Festival. For the first time in Post-Soviet Russia a recording has come out by a foreign guest artist with world-wide fame: it suffices to say that prior to "Alternativa" Pierce had several performances together with our symphony orchestras as a performer of classical music. In the mid-1970's Pierce became acquainted with the leading conceptualist composer, John Cage. During the course of a quarter of a century, he had made about fifteen authorized recordings of Cage's piano music. As a pianist, Pierce reminds our academic audience of the popular Shura Cherkassky: he never deviates from the composer's original musical text, and at the same time he makes even the most difficult music accessible. For example, the "Three-Page Sonata" of the American classic Charles Ives is interpreted without the excessive "jazziness," inherent in the renditions of many performers, though still entirely out of context in a composition written in 1905. The central place on the disc is occupied by John Cage's cycle "Sonatas and Interludes" for prepared piano. It is a sort of introduction into the world of the contemporary piano, which is "prepared" in a special way prior to the performance, which transforms it into an entirely new instrument, which sounds more like a chromatic harp or an entire orchestra of percussion, similar to the Indonesian gamelan. Together with New York based bassoonist and composer Johnny Reinhard, Pierce also returns to its homeland the musical legacy of the experimentator in the field of microtonal music, the Russian emigre Ivan Wyschnegradsky, who died in France in 1979. An additional surprise turned out to be the participation in the concert of jazz saxophonist Mike Ellis, not planned earlier. He was able to literally draw Reinhard and Pierce into a joint improvisation, which, much better than dozens of other recordings, provides an impression of the informal atmosphere of "Alternativa". ... In all respects, the CD deserves an A+. "
- Dmitri Oukhov, "Zhurnal" Magazine (weekly), N.01/52, January 14, 2003, Moscow
On speaking of the new Cage/Ives/Wyschnegradsky on the contemporary Russian label Solyd Records (SLR-0303) issued in December of 2002 Carol Baron writes: "With virtuosity and verve, Joshua Pierce's performance of the Three Page Sonata is matchless in communicating the feisty humor in Charles Ives parody of the classical sonata."
- Carol Baron, One of the leading American scholars on the music of Charles Ives. December 2002
"Joshua Pierce took a more rational and cerebral approach to interpreting Charles Ives' Three Page Sonata, while maintaining all the brilliance of his technique."
- Anton Rovner, 21st Century Music, (Europe-Asia Festival/April 17, 2000, Nizhekimsk, Russia), August, 2002
"Joshua Pierce from New York featured Three Page Sonata written by Charles Ives in 1915 and John Cage's Daughters of a Lonesome Island (1945) for prepared piano, with a busy, steady rhythmic textural pattern, exotic gamelan like, percussive effects and at the same time lyrical and emotional. Pierce successfully brought out the experimental, modernist and the traditional, expressive qualities of the piece. Johnny Reinhard with Joshua Pierce performed on bassoon and piano: Meditation On Two Themes from the Day of Existence originally for cello and piano, by Russian composer Ivan Wyschnegradsky, one of the microtonal pioneers. It alternated a spirited, exalted mood with more lyrical, almost tragic, elements, employing quartertones and sixthtones for the cello and, subsequently, the bassoon. The performance of the piece by Reinhard and Pierce, possibly one of the first in Russia, was unsurpassably virtuosic in manner and inspiring."
- Seen & Heard Concert Review (UK), Europe/Asia Contemporary Music Festival, Kazan, Republic of Tartarstan, April, 2000
Three wonderful musicians from the USA have performed in Moscow: composer and bassoonist, Johnny Reinhard, who had completed Charles Ives immortal Universe Symphony a few years ago; the brilliant pianist Joshua Pierce, a champion of contemporary music, including the music of John Cage, the piano compositions of whom he had performed numerous times and had recorded on compact discs, also being a wonderful performer of traditional, classical repertoire; jazz saxophonist Mike Ellis, who grew up at the crossroads of several cultures - American, Russian and Scottish.
Ivan Wyschnegradsky's composition, Meditation on Two Themes from Day of Existence, originally for cello and piano, was performed by Maestro Reinhard and Maestro Pierce in a transcription for bassoon and piano. This Moscow premiere of the work was preceded in by numerous performances by this duo in the USA, who also recorded it on CD. The composition which featured a romantically exalted and vigorous mood, which at the end becomes elegiac, was successfully interpreted by both musicians with great taste and refinement.
In a very expressive manner Maestro Pierce also performed Ives' composition Three Page Sonata, also creating the effect of a brightly contrasting orchestral sound. The composition contains a chaotic type of atonal harmony with elements of diatonicism and brightly contrasting changes of moods. The texture of the Sonata reminded one alternatively of sweeping Rachmaninoff textures, subtly lyrical textures and, at times, contained incursions of march rhythms.
The joint improvisation of the three musicians, Reinhard, Pierce and Ellis brought out not only great lyrical and virtuosic qualities, but a masterful sense of form and dramatic qualities of music to such an extent that it seemed they were not improvising together jointly, but performing a written composition, which they previously rehearsed together for a long time and scrupulously. The improvisation featured elements of jazz, though not in its pure form.
Rossiyskaya Muzykal'naya Gazeta (Russia Musical Newspaper), June, 2000
"In complete silence (the photographers did not dare to make snaps with their equipment) the performance of the Sonatas and Interludes of John Cage took place. The cycle of 16 two-movement sonatas and 4 interludes for prepared piano is identical to the "Well Tempered Klavier" – the last noteworthy composition by Cage (1946-1948) before his discovery of the principles of indeterminacy, already reflecting the fascination with Buddhism. At the piano was Joshua Pierce, a well-known performer of 20th century music and a winner of several Grammy Award nominations. The CD album of Pierce with John Cage's early piano music is considered exemplary."
- Rossiyskaya Muzykal'naya Gazeta (Russian Musical Newspaper), May, 2000
One of the more dynamic pianistic talents of the late 20th century, Joshua Pierce enters the 21st at the top of his pianistic talents: From his Solo and Duo-Piano World Premier recordings to his collaboration with composer Daron Hagen, to his being named a Yamaha Artist, Joshua Pierce just keeps on surprising and pleasing both critics and fans alike. Joshua Pierce has been acknowledged as one of today's most versatile, exciting and original pianists. He is renowned as a "thoroughly musical and brilliant interpreter" of the standard repertoire and is widely recognized as an major interpreter of contemporary music. During the course of his career, Joshua Pierce has achieved a reputation as a prolific pianist who has forged his own individual and unique style in with a vast repertoire of music spanning, all eras of piano literature. His technical mastery has afforded him the ability to move easily from the concerti of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, to the big works of Brahms; Liszt, Tchaikowsky, Rachmaninov, to the provoking sounds of John Cage, Charles Ives, Ivan Wyschnegradsky, Harry Partch, Teo Macero, Karl Stockhausen, La Monte Young, Toru Takemitsu, Swen Sandstrom, Maurice Ohana, Ben Weber, Sofia Gubidulina and many others. His impressive array of reviews speak loudly as to his tremendous ability: "Joshua Pierce possesses an arsenal of pianistic talents that can astonish the ear and instruct the mind." (Robert D. Cummings, Classical Net).
Mr. Pierce grew up in New York City, studying at the Juilliard School of Music, pre-College Division where for seven years, he was the recipient of the Heckscher Foundation Award, the Manhattan School of Music, and Columbia University. He also studied at the Cleveland Institute where he received the Victor Babin Award. Many more awards would follow during his accomplished career. His principal teacher and mentor has been Dorothy Taubman; he also did extensive chamber music work with Joseph Seiger and Artur Balsam.
Mr. Pierce has performed internationally as solo recitalist, in chamber music performances, with Russia's famed Leontovich String Quartet, as well as an astounding array of orchestras and on an equally impressive array of broadcast services. He has given historical performances of works by Charles Ives and John Cage in Russia where he received outstanding reviews and critical audience acclaim. Pierce's 2003 world premiere performances of Michael Harrison's "Revelation" absolutely stunned and floored audiences in New York. His performances of April 25 and 26 and May 2 were sold out and greeted with standing ovations. Alan Kozinn of The New York Times described Joshua Pierce as an "eloquent new-music pianist."
Mr. Pierce commands a vast repertoire and has played with many prestigious orchestras including, to name a few, the Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonia, Luxembourg Radio Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta, Utah Symphony, Missouri Chamber Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, Mexico City Philharmonic, Jalisco Philharmonic of Guadalajara, Berlin Radio Symphony, Czech National Symphony Orchestra, RTV Orchestra Slovenija, Slovak Philharmonic, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra of Bratislava, State Philharmonic Orchestra Kosice, the National Symphony Orchestra of Polish Radio and Television, Moscow State Philharmonic, and the State Symphony Orchestra of Russia at Tchaikovsky Hall (Moscow) where he made a highly successful 1993 debut performing Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 in Eb Major.
In broadcast, Mr. Pierce has been heard on NPR nationally, PRI International, in New York on WQXR-FM, WNYC-FM, WFMT/Chicago, Morning Pro Musica on WGBH/Boston, plus Netherlands Radio, Radio Luxembourg, Russia's Radio 'VOLGA', Radio 'PULS', Radio 'RUSSIA' and Radio 'BIM'/Kazan, Republic of Tartarstan, Slovak Television (Stv2), Zurich Radio, Bergen Radio, BBC London, French and German ArteTelevision as well as MBC Radio and Television of South Korea. He has been heard on such nationally syndicated programs as John Shafer's new Sounds, George Jellinek's First Hearing, Peter Schickele's Schickele Mix, National Public Radio's All Things Considered and David Dubal's American Century and Reflections From The Keyboard.
Mr. Pierce's November 2001 concerts in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, produced the first simulcast performaces in Europe of George Gerswhin's complete and restored Rhapsody in Blue and the Concerto in F for the EBU via Radio Slovenska. The concert was simulcast in 19 countries throughout Europe. On November 22, under the auspices of Slovak Television (STV-1), Mr. Pierce taped a spectacular performance of the complete and restored Rhapsody in Blue. During the previous year, Mr. Pierce began his collaboration with composer Daron Hagan, on a new Concerto for Piano and Orchestra to be premiered during the 2003-2004 season and will be performed with a consortium of orchestras at various venues throughout the United States and Europe.
A highly prolific recording artist, Mr. Pierce has recorded over 40 solo concertos including works by Tchaikowsky, Kchaturian, Rachmaninov, Prokofieff as well as the complete piano concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, and Liszt. Other recordings include works by Hummel, Czerny, Reinecke, Weber, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Franck, Strauss, Casella, Respighi, Gershwin and Ellington. Other solo works to be released are the complete Impromtus, Moments Musicaux, the Sonata in Bb major D.960, Huttenbrenner Variations D. 576 and various other piano works by Franz Schubert.
His 20-year association and work with the late pioneering innovator-composer. John Cage, is legendary. Mr. Pierce's landmark series of recordings of John Cage's keyboard music for the German label Wergo: John Cage, Works for Piano and Prepared Piano Volumes I, II, III, IV and Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano have received many prizes, much critical acclaim and in 1991 won the Prieses Der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (Mr. Pierce collaborated with both John Cage and the work's dedicatee, pianist Maro Ajemian in preparation of this landmark recording) of which, David Hurwitz stated: "... Joshua Pierce is the greatest living exponent of Sonatas and Interludes" and Etude Revue, Paris, France said: "Pierce's interpretation is a mixture of virtuosity, strength, poetry and beautiful harmonies"; Alan Rich of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner: "Joshua Pierce plays the music of Cage as imaginatively as its most famous exponent, David Tudor did on records years ago." Other releases of Cage's works are Between the Keys/Sony Classics and "live" recorded performances of John Cage, Charles Ives and Ivan Wyschnegradsky for SoLyd Records/ Moscow, Russia titles "Joshua Pierce: Live at the Dom/Alternativa Festival 2000" (SLR 0303). Other recently released solo albums are: "For the Fun Of It All" for Kleos Classics (KL-5124) and "Baccalaureat 2003" for EMI Classics (562111). Ants Records of Rome, Italy has issued a spectacular Double CD in Tribute to John Cage with the American Tenor Robert White, titled John Cage, A Tribute (AG06).
In May 2000, Mr. Pierce made music history by becoming the first pianist ever to perform John Cage's Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano, Daughters of the Lonesome Isle ("Under Pierce's command, his playing gave evidence to his performance of 'staggering timbre of palate' revealing tremendous finds in the musical compositions of the last 50 years." - Natalie Charemmikh/Newspaper: Republic of Tartarstan) and the Three Page Sonata by Charles Ives at the Alternitivo Festival of Contemporary Music 2000 in Moscow, Russia and at the 4th ISCM Festival Europe/Asia 2000 in Kazan, Russia to great critical acclaim! He has been heard at the Royal Festival Hall and the Barbican Centre/London; the Reduta/Bratislava; Gran Teatro La Fenice/Yenice, Italy; La Palacia de Bellas Artes/Mexico City; Teatro La Degollado/Guadalajara; Teatro Principal/Lima, Peru; the ISCM Festival at Rote Fabrique in Zurich, Switzerland; Tchaikovsky Moscow Conservatory, Festival "Music of Friends"/Russian Composers Union Music Series/Moscow; and the Futurismo & Futurisimi Festival, Venice, Italy. Other important performances include the International Festival of Contemporary Music in Seattle, WA; Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series, Chicago; the Amherst Music Festival; the Trenton Avant-Garde Festival; Music Mountain Chamber Music 2000 with the Leontovich String Quartet in performances of the Piano Quintet Op. 44 by Robert Schumann; performances with Chamber Players International of the Mozart's Piano Quartet in G minor K. 478, the Concerto for Piano, Violin and String Quartet in D Major, Op. 35 by Ernest Chausson, the 2001 Bergan International Music Festival/Norway; the International Piano Festival 2000 at Williams College, MA; and at SUNY-Purchase; Washington and Lee University; University of Maryland at College Park; University of Pittsburgh; and Bucknell University.
Mr. Pierce continues his association with the American Festival of Microtonal Music, Inc. (AFMM), having been the organization's official pianist and Artistic Advisor. In 1996, Johnny Reinhard brought his realization of Charles Ives' Universe Symphony to Alice Tully Hall with Mr. Pierce as pianist. They have performed together throughout Russia, Europe and the United States since 1983, presenting a wide variety of composers including many important works by John Cage, Harry Partch, Phillip Corner, Charles Ives and Ivan Wyschnegradsky.
Mr. Pierce has served as a judge for several piano competitions including the International Center for Contemporary Opera, International IBLA Competition 2002 and 2003 (Sicily) and has served on the board of the International Fulbright Commission for four years. He has multiple Grammy Award nominations, citations of excellence from such American Publications as Jazzmania (Jazz Alchemy/Best of 2000 Album), Downbeat, Billboard, Cashbox, Fanfare, Turok's Choice, Keyboard Magazine, Heavy Metal, the New Yorker and UK's Classical Music Web.
In addition to the labels already mentioned, Mr. Pierce has recorded for Helicon, Hallmark, Mastersound, MMC, Phoenix, Premier, Pro Arte, Varese Sarabande, Sony Classics, Platinum Entertainment and Carlton Classics.