On Saturday Feb. 18, renowned pianist and recording artist William Joseph gave a captivating performance in Wadsworth Auditorium as part of the Limelight & Accents Performing Arts Series.
Joseph first gained recognition after an impromptu performance for 16-time Grammy Award-winning producer and composer David Foster at a charity event. Foster immediately recognized Joseph's supreme talent and innovative sound.
Since then, Joseph has collaborated frequently with Foster and performed with the likes of Josh Groban, Barbra Streisand and John Mayer.
After the first piece, which featured a haunting background track and driving rhythms, Joseph stopped to introduce himself and joke with the audience. "This isn't going to be exactly like a romantic Valentine's Day evening," he said.
The next piece, the title track off his 2008 release Beyond, incorporated an orchestral background track and featured a heroic melody over a strong rock beat. "Beyond" was a deeply moving work with emotional peaks and excitement worthy of a movie score.
A high point of the performance came in the calm, sweeping melody of the lullaby-like "A Mother's Heart," a piece Joseph co-wrote with Foster. This piece in particular showcased his ability as a composer and performer to poignantly express sincere and relatable emotions.
Joseph was at ease with the audience, resting between musical numbers to tell personal and endearing stories of the years before his fame. "I seem to attract really embarrassing moments," he said, after telling a story of a wedding accompaniment performance gone wrong.
In addition to his own written work, Joseph played more universally known pieces. His rendition of the classic "Ave Maria" was flawlessly executed and catered to more traditionally-minded listeners. He was able to transition smoothly between simple piano classics and more energetic compositions.
Joseph took the time to recognize the individuals of his string and percussion ensemble, noting their individual talent and dedication. Of particular note was animated ensemble violinist Pauline Kim, whose talent was featured in a technical fast-paced piece titled "Piano Fantasy."
In a moment reminiscent of a rock concert, Joseph asked two unsuspecting audience members onstage. The two Geneseo students were asked to pick four notes on the piano, from which Joseph would compose a piece on the spot. The students chose four discordant notes for Joseph to work with, but he nevertheless gave an impressive performance of a wholly spontaneous composition.
Joseph continued to inspire awe by playing intricate sections of the final piece on his back with his head under the piano, making him unable to see the keys while he played. Despite his impressive abilities, he remained relatable and sincere, offering to talk to any interested audience members after the show.
Joseph's concert was an eclectic performance to please classical enthusiasts and pop fans alike. With his talent and technicality at the forefront and enough pizzazz for the youthful ear, Joseph's performance was a distinct and powerful musical journey worth taking.