Joseph Houston is a British pianist based in Berlin. His performance practice encompasses a range of music, including contemporary and experimental music; late 19th- and early 20th-century piano music; music for synthesizers; and his own compositions.
Joseph aims to curate unique and immersive programmes that combine music from various genres, generating a whole that challenges and informs the understanding of each individual work, while involving himself as much as possible in the compositional process of new commissions. He believes music is fundamentally collaborative and is particularly interested in works that reassess the traditional composer-performer-listener triangle; make use of alternative keyboard instruments (synths, harmonium, harpsichord etc.); and intensely explore the sonic capabilities of the piano. He works on a project-by-project basis, building programmes that explore these ideas.
At the University of York and the Royal College of Music, London, he studied the core classical piano repertoire with Ashley Wass, Andrew Ball and Ian Jones. Since his studies, performances have included wide-ranging selections of music from Scarlatti, Ives, and Scriabin, to Rădulescu, Christian Wolff, and Chiyoko Szlavnics. Soon after graduating he performed Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie with the University of York Symphony Orchestra and gave performances of Brahms’ 1st Piano Concerto, Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto, John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra (with the RCM Contemporary Music Ensemble), as well as giving a solo recital of Beethoven, Debussy, and Thomas Simaku at Wigmore Hall.
Joseph performs as a soloist and with various groups, with recent performances including duos with Rolf Hind (piano), Lore Lixenberg (voice), and Lucy Railton (cello), as well as larger collaborations with Quatuor Diotima, the Boulez Ensemble, and the Harmonic Space Orchestra (a Berlin-based group focused on rational intonation). He has worked extensively with various composers on new and recent music during the last 10 years, including: Rebecca Saunders, Charlotte Bray, Catherine Lamb, Chiyoko Szlavnics, Klaus Lang, Brian Ferneyhough, Christian Mason, Mark Barden, Clara Iannotta, Louis D’Heudieres, Marco Stroppa, and Christian Wolff. He is also the pianist with the Octandre Ensemble, a London-based group dedicated to performing music written since 1945; a member of the Phonetic Orchestra, a collective of musicians based in Melbourne, Perth, and Berlin exploring durational performance and the fluid borders between composition and improvisation; and has a duo with American violinist Sarah Saviet.
Festival and venue appearances include among others Berlin Biennale (DE); Lille Piano(s) Festival (FR); Donaueschinger Musiktage (DE); BBC Proms (London); Summartónar Festival (Faroe Islands); Kammer Klang (London); Konzerthaus (Berlin); Cheltenham Festival (UK); Philharmonie (Berlin); International Pharos Contemporary Music Festival (Nicosia); Southbank Centre (London); Orpheus Instituut (Ghent); and Wigmore Hall (London).
Recent highlights include solo performances at Donaueschinger Musiktage 2019, broadcast on SWR2; duos with Sarah Saviet (violin) at Radialsystem as part of Sasha Waltz's ZUHÖREN #4; a CD of chamber music by Thomas Simaku with Quatuor Diotima on BIS; and a portrait CD of composer Mark Barden, released on WERGO.
"Formidable focus and unshowy mastery" - The Arts Desk