Joseph Houston is a British pianist active in the fields of contemporary and experimental music. Based in Berlin, Joseph performs regularly in festivals and venues across Europe both as a soloist and with other artists. He particularly enjoys projects which involve collaborating closely with composers and other performers, including recently with: Christian Wolff, Lore Lixenberg, Louis D’Heudieres, Rolf Hind, Nomi Epstein, Mark Barden, Stephen Crowe, Catherine Lamb, and Christian Mason. He is principal pianist with the Octandre Ensemble, a London-based new music group focusing on music written since 1945.
Joseph aims to curate unique and immersive programmes that combine works from various musical genres, generating a whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts, 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 challenge the traditional composer-performer-listener triangle; new or unusual notation practices; and pieces that intensely explore the sonic possibilities of the instrument. He works on a project-by-project basis, building programmes that explore these ideas.
After undergraduate studies at the University of York – receiving a first-class BA in Music and the Wilfrid Mellers Prize for outstanding academic achievement – Joseph attended the Royal College of Music, London, where he was awarded the Frank Merrick Prize, 2nd Prize in the Beethoven Piano Competition, and an MMus in Advanced Performance with distinction.
Soon after leaving the RCM he was selected for Making Music's Philip and Dorothy Green Award for young concert artists; received 2nd Prize in the British Contemporary Piano Competition; won a Help Musicians UK 'Emerging Excellence' award; and gained a place on City Music Foundation's young artist scheme. He was also chosen as a Park Lane Group Young Artist in 2013, which led to his debut solo recitals at the Purcell Room and Wigmore Hall, performing works by Scriabin, Michael Zev Gordon, Beethoven, Thomas Simaku, Charlotte Bray, Colin Matthews, and Debussy. Joseph has performed as a soloist with various orchestras, playing music ranging from Brahms’ 1st Piano Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto, to Messiaen’s 'Turangalîla-Symphonie' and John Cage's 'Concert for Piano and Orchestra'. In recent years he has performed all over Europe at venues and festivals such as the Akademie der Künste (Berlin), Ухо Festival (Kiev, Ukraine), the BBC Proms, Summartónar Festival (Faroe Islands), and Lilles Piano(s) Festival. His playing has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 4, and 6 Music, Radio Cemat Rome, France Musique, SWR2, and SRF Radio.
Recent performances include Cat Lamb’s ‘Prisma Interius VIII’ at the Berlin Biennale, duos with Sarah Saviet (violin) at Radialsystem as part of Sasha Waltz's ZUHÖREN, and solo performances at Donaueschinger Musiktage 2019. Future projects include a CD of Thomas Simaku's chamber music with Quartor Diotima, to be released on BIS; a portrait CD of composer Mark Barden, to be released on WERGO; and performances throughout 2020 of Feldman's 'Patterns in a Chromatic Field' with Lucy Railton in Berlin, Paris, Copenhagen, and London.
"Formidable focus and unshowy mastery" - The Arts Desk