JOSEPH VILLA (1948-1995)
American pianist

Joseph Villa went to Julliard where he studied with Sascha Gorodnitzki and subsequently studied privately with Claudio Arrau and Olga Barabini.

"in my opinion, PHENOMENAL pianist and musician (but little known)...full of fire and demonic vitality... I think Joseph Villa is one of the most extraordinary pianists of the past century ..."  These words by Gullivior say it all.

The pianist was not a big star.  But he was a magnificent pianist, and his loss at the age of 46 was an inestimable loss to the musical world.  It seems appropriate to quote from the blog of another wonderful pianist, Stephen Hough, who wrote this appreciation of his friend.  I hope Mr. Hough will forgive me the liberty.

"Joseph Villa, a great pianist and a dear friend, died on Thursday 13th April 1995 from complications resulting from AIDS. He was 46 years old and at the height of his pianistic powers, although, through the puzzling lottery of musical careers, he never had the sort of success he deserved. Fortunately he made five CDs (Liszt and Scriabin), and there are a number of tapes from live-concerts which it is hoped will be released.

"It is in these tapes that the clearest glimpse can be seen of the almost fearful energy and passion which could burst forth when Joseph played. A friend of his recalled to me an impromptu performance at a party of Scriabin's Fifth Sonata, where the initial, amused listening was suddenly transmuted into speechless fixation as Joseph conjured up the piece's wild frenzy. As the last, screaming arpeggios shredded up the keyboard, it was the audience's nerves that were in tatters.

"Due to his almost empty concert schedule during the years we were friends, I was only able to hear him live on one occasion: when we read through the piano-duet version of Liszt's Via Crucis at his apartment. I remember his hands being incapable of just playing notes - every chord was coloured with the care and expertise of a great painter. He knew just how to handle the vast canvasses of Liszt's style - his gestures, his vocal lines. What an irony this duet seemed when I visited him in the hospital, his phenomenal powers smothered under the sterilized white sheets, and the burden of extreme physical weakness making his final months a personal 'Via Crucis'.

"One particular interest we shared was the traditional Latin Mass. In fact, we only became close friends as we chatted over brunch after St. Agnes' weekly 'Tridentine treat' in New York. I never saw him more passionate than when he was lambasting the modern liturgical abuses he witnessed. He would often make these views plainly known to cowering priests or trouser-suited nuns, and, on occasion, would even walk out in protest as guitars were 'untuned' before starting their strumming!

"There is an inevitable sense of tragedy when such talent is unused or ignored, but some lines from the French philosopher Jacques Maritain seem to me to be an appropriate response:

" 'The philosopher is inconsolable at the irreparable loss of the least fleeting reality, a face, a gesture of the hand, an act of freedom or a musical harmony in which there flashes the slightest glimmer of love or beauty. He has his own solution, I must admit. He believes that not one of these things passes away because they are all preserved in the memory of the angels ... (who) ... will never cease to speak of them to one another and thus bring back to life in a thousand different forms the story of our poor world'."

Joseph Villa has developed a near cult following among the all too few who have been exposed to his immense talent.  Hear for yourselves.

Beethoven Piano Sonata in C minor, Op 27 n2 "Moonlight"

Beethoven Symphony 5 in C minor, Op 67 (transcribed by Liszt)
i Allegro con brio - ii Andante con moto (6:03) - iii Allegro (15:03)

recorded live in 1989

Schumann Études Symphoniques, Op 13

recorded live in 1987

Part I

Part II

Schumann-Liszt: Widmung

recorded live in 1990

Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody 9 Pester Karneval

recorded live in 1973

Part I

Part II

Liszt Valse-Impromptu in A major

recorded live in 1973

Liszt Valse "Valse oubliée" 2

recorded live in 1987

Consolation 3 in D♭ major

recorded live in 1973

Liszt Etudes d'éxecution transcendante 8 Wilde Jagd

recorded live in 1987

Scriabin Piano Sonata 4 in F♯ major, Op 30
Andante - (02:35) i Prestissimo volando

Scriabin Poème, Op 32 n1

Scriabin Piano Sonata 7, Op 64 "White Mass"

Rachmaninoff Piano Sonata 2 in B minor, Op. 36

i Allegro agitato

ii Non allegro

iii Allegro molto

Below are examples of Joseph Villa playing with others in the Tchaikovsky piano trio and the Rachmaninoff first concerto.

Tchaikovsky Piano Trio in A Minor, Op 50
i Pezzo elegiaco (Moderato assai - Allegro giusto)
ii (A) Tema con variazioni: Andante con moto - (B) Variazione Finale e coda

recorded live in 1990 with William Preucil (violin) and John Sharp (cello)

Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto 1 in Fminor, Op. 1
Vivace - ii Andante cantabile - iii Allegro scherzando

Lawrence Smith conducting the Hartford Symphony Orchestra

recorded live in 1980

For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background

Murder in the House of the Muse

which is also available as an audiobook.

And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:

Murder Follows the Muse

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