Joseph’s vision of elevating the accordion to the status of a solo concert instrument met with early critical acclaim at his debut recitals in Washington and London, followed by invitations to international series where his fresh conversations with Mozart, “..cool, liquid, flowing...”(Maribor Vecer, Slovenia), solo concertos “sensational...brilliant” (Toronto Globe), and John Zorn’s iconic Roadrunner, would create “… a sensation in the hall..” (Le Soleil, Québec).
Gripping concerto performances
Joseph’s 21 concerto commissions remain an unparalleled contribution to the contemporary accordion canon. His first concerto commission was written by Canadian Third Stream composer Norman Symonds. A sideman for Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Charles Mingus in their legendary 1953 Massey Hall concert, Symonds’s concerto The Eyes of Bidesuk was premiered with the McGill Jazz Big Band and recorded by Société Radio Canada.
Following his symphonic concerto debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under conductor Jukka Pekka Saraste, Joseph’s concerto appearances surged to some 30 engagements with European, Scandinavian and North American orchestras. His performances were noted by critics as “a glittering exhibit...” (Chicago Tribune) possessed of an “astonishing bravura…” (London Musical Opinion), an affirmation of the satisfactions a concerto-led career offers to symphonic audiences.
Concerto reviews | Concerto Commissions
Joseph’s forays into new creation and palimpsestic engagements with the ancient voices of the Baroque, Classical and Romantic archive were welcomed by avante-garde festivals such as Huddersfield, Agora IRCAM, Montréal New Music and Tanglewood, and legacy festivals Tokyo Spring, the Berlin Philharmonic, Hohenems Schubertiade, Wigmore Hall and Tel Aviv Opera.
His prismatic accordion voice in a performance of Schubert’s Winterreise with tenor Christoph Prégardien at Wigmore Hall’s Schubert Festival was recently singled out by London critic Paul Reed as “...a breath from another planet.” (SoundsClassical).
Joseph’s commissions are an ever-evolving conversation with composers and audiences. The dedicatee of some 360 new works, his foundational contributions to the accordion canon include but are not restricted to, the creation of an electroacoustic canon (1980s) by Canadian composers Montgomery, Jaeger, Lake, Hatzis, Hatch, Patrick, Plammondon, Morin, Daoust, Arcuri and Pritchard with live electronic, electroacoustic and digital platforms including CX5M computer, MAC laptop, software programs, programed sequencers, CD or WAV file playback systems, live digital delay and works with amplified accordion integrated with live video and sound processing.
A collaborator of unerring instinct he has worked with Pauline Oliveros, Norma Beecroft, Linda Catlin Smith, and emerging voices Bekah Simms, Julia Mermelstein, Emilie LeBel, Symon Henry and Gabriel Le Doux.
His palimpsestic commissions that began with Christos Hatzis’s Orbiting Garden redefined the narrow modernist accordion’s approach to commissioning. His decades long contributions to Canadian music were acknowledged in 2005 as “legendary” when he became the first instrumentalist laureate of the Canadian Music Centre’s Friend of Canadian Music Award.
Joseph’s curatorial instincts have been welcomed by diverse presenters looking for new conversations, an opportunity Joseph has embraced by performing three concertos in one night with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, seven electroacoustic solo and chamber world premieres for Montréal’s Société de Musique Contemporaine de Québec, three works for accordion and quartet with the Penderecki Quartet, and the presentation of the first Canadian performance of the Complete Berio Sequenzas for the UofToronto New Music Festival.
Joseph’s curiosity and commitment for music with irony finds expression in cutting edge duos with clarinet/bass clarinet and baritone saxophone, ensembles of world music, multidisciplinary theatre, forays into Romantic period performance with Streicher fortepiano and a period Baroque duo with cello da spalla (piccolo gamba).
Joseph’s first ensemble was a highly successful improvising touring duo Deep Squeeze (1986-1995) with Pauline Oliveros, Open Line (1989-99) with Guy Few, Bellows and Brass (2000-2019), Trio Diomira (2011-2023), and the internationally acclaimed Winterreise Project with Montréal’s Pentaèdre and German tenor Christoph Prégardien (2002-23).
Joseph’s commitment to a diverse discography has resulted in 40 albums to date. His recent solo release SEEN 2022 was noted for “...(its) sheer beauty,magnificent sound… the performance is stunning” (Fanfare USA). Joseph has worked with producers John Rushby Smith (UK), David Jaeger, Clive Allen and Peter Lutek (CA), who combined have recorded artists such as Ravi Shankar, the BBC Philharmonic, Glenn Gould, Iannis Xennakis, Luciano Berio, Bob Aitken and Roscoe Mitchell.
Joseph’s output has garnered “Best Recording” honours from the Hunter Foundation, Québec’s Prix Opus and Canada’s JUNOs with albums released for NAXOS, CBC5000 Series, CBCMusicaViva, Analekta, Chandos, ConAccord, Centrediscs, and Astrila labels. Selections of his recordings have been broadcast throughout the world including on BBC Radio 3, Société Radio Canada, TV5 (now France TVMonde), and Japanese and Malaysian broadcasters.
As well, Joseph’s thematic albums of ancient music include Romantic works by Bernhard Molique, George MacFarren and Giulio Regondi that underline the accordion’s complementary 19th century art. Joseph has been past guest host for CBC Radio’s This is My Music. For Joseph’s discography please visit here.
Pedagogy & Mentorship
Joseph’s existential humanistic pedagogy which balances artistic curiosity with an exceedingly wary relationship to the Great Man narrative of music and respect for historic performance practice is sought out by an international roster of graduate students. A frequent masterclass guest, he has worked with students from Amsterdam, Lille, Strasburg, Paris, Trossingen, Essen, Jyvaskylla, Ikallinen, the RAM, Penderecki and Szymonowski academies Poland.
The creator of the entrepreneurial CDAP (the Canadian Career Development Apprenticeship Program) forum for international students, which is laser-focused on concert careers in a post-COVID world, Joseph leads the Masters and Doctoral accordion performance program at the Université de Montréal and the accordion summer school-composer’s workshop at the Lunenburg Academy of Musical Performance, Nova Scotia.
Publications & Scholarship
Joseph’s scholarly and theoretical writings are an organic extension of his pedagogy. A trained musicologist, his independent scholarship bridges the musicological, historical and artistic offering fresh perspectives beyond the great man accordion’s self-validating hagiographic control of values.
His work The Concert Accordion–Contemporary Perspectives (2017 Augemus) is the first fully contextualized accordion history in 70 years (after Pierre Monichon, Paris, 1955). The book opens new and granular conversations that address the orthodox suppressions of unknown and deserving accordion precursors supported by pictorial and primary evidence of 14 foundational concert instrument patents (1890-1930) from Catania, Milan, Bolzano, Paris, Lucerne, Vercelli, Croce San Spirito, Turin, Vienna, Philadelphia, Manhattan and Chicago. The title was acclaimed by musicologist and Boulez expert Jonathan Goldman as “…a towering achievement and a model of what scholarship led by artist-creators can look like.”
Joseph’s Holistic Accordion, a Manifesto (2022) was a foray into critical theory that rebalanced the objective violence of a reductivist accordion with an invitation to revisit the possibilities of a transporting interpretive art for audiences in the concert hall. The Manifesto was recently noted by Canadian literary luminary and UofToronto Professor Emeritus Linda Hutcheon: “…(the author) writes brilliantly! I'm enjoying the Manifesto…it's theoretically astute and a joy to read—and those don't always go together in my field.”
Joseph’s next manuscript The Metropolitan Accordion and the Dignity of Difference is presently being edited by David Perlman. A collection of 22 essays, the title introduces the value of critical thinking to aspiring concert accordionists supported by the voices of diverse artistic “companions” Enrico Cechetti, Andrej Zagajewski, Clive James, Nicolas Harnoncourt, Duke Ellington and Hanna Arendt among others, accompanied by concrete examples and critical commentaries drawn from Joseph’s extensive and lived career in the international concert hall. Publication pending.
Joseph gives back to his community. He contributes regularly to the Salvation Army Food bank and has worked with folks with mental and intellectual disabilities for 25 years.
Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann
Joseph Petric portraits: © Bo Huang.
© Copyright Joseph Petric. All rights reserved.