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 soloist and with other artists. He particularly enjoys projects which involve collaborating closely with composers and other performers, including recently with: Catherine Lamb, Christian Wolff, Brian Ferneyhough, Lore Lixenberg, Heather Frasch, Louis D’Heudieres, Rolf Hind, Rebecca Saunders, Mark Barden, Nomi Epstein, Colin Matthews, Thomas Simaku, Michael Zev Gordon, Lucy Railton, 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, including Brahms’ 1st Piano Concerto with the de Havilland Philharmonic Orchestra; John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra with the Variable Geometries Ensemble; Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concert with the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra; and Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie with the York University Symphony Orchestra and Cynthia Millar. In recent years he has performed all over Europe and in China at venues and festivals such as the Akademie der Künste (Berlin), Lille Piano(s) Festival, Ухо Festival (Kiev, Ukraine), the BBC Proms, Suture Soven Festival, Cheltenham Music Festival, Kammer Klang (Cafe Oto), Pharos Contemporary Music Festival (Cyprus), Unerhörte Music (Berlin), Ryedale Festival, Occupy the Pianos Festival, Music Week Festival (Beijing Normal University), Piano Salon Christophori (Berlin), Pianodrom Festival (Albania), km28 (Berlin), Pirelli HangarBiccoca (Milan), and Summartónar Festival (Faroe Islands). His playing has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 6 Music, Radio Cemat Rome, and France Musique.
Recent performances include a performance of Cat Lamb’s ‘Prisma Interius VIII’ at the Berlin Biennale, the world premiere of a new violin/piano work by Christian Wolff at Kammer Klang, London, and multiple-piano performances of Nørgård, Julius Eastman, and Steen-Andersen at the Lille Piano(s) Festival with Rolf Hind. 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 a solo performances at Donaueschinger Musiktage 2019.
"Formidable focus and unshowy mastery" - The Arts Desk