Author Topic: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)  (Read 9895 times)

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Symphonien

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Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« on: February 16, 2008, 05:44:40 PM »
Discovered this composer yesterday via the following great disc:



I would recommend it without hesitation to anyone at all interested in Rzewski's music.

Surely this guy deserves his own thread! The People United Will Never Be Defeated! is a brilliant work that truly convinced me of the Theme and Variations form. First off, it's a beautiful theme he's chosen to begin with and I like the way he has it repeated at the end rather like Bach's Goldberg Variations, by the time I got back to it again after all the music has been through, it was incredibly moving! And everything that comes inbetween - wow! He explores the full range of possibilities in every style imaginable, including an improvised cadenza. For me, I see this as one of the few great works of true postmodernism in music!

And the two jazzy North American Ballades were great as well, showing his skill in the treatment of folk melodies. I especially liked Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues - a very original use of tone clusters. It's a haunting effect after the climax of the "machine music" when a ghost-like echo of blues music appears, then mixes in with a machine-like ostinato before it turns full-blown jazz - then gets interrupted by the tone clusters again, except in the upper register. I love this piece!

I think Rzewski is the first composer to have really convinced me of the blending of jazz elements within classical music, probably because when he does so, he manages to maintain his own voice and he actually makes it work within the piece.

And for those who already know this composer, would you be able to recommend any other works by this composer worth checking out?

Here are some links, by the way:

Excerpts from the liner notes for Hamelin's Hyperion Rzewski CD

Wikipedia article

Some sheet music, including The Road

A short interview

I also noticed there is plenty of Rzewski on Youtube. Just search for "Rzewski" and you will find a complete performance of The People United amongst other things. I'll have to get around to watching some of these myself. You may also want to check out:

A performance of El pueblo unido jamás será vencido by the group that first sung it - this is the Chilean song on which Rzewski's variations are based



« Last Edit: February 16, 2008, 08:26:36 PM by Symphonien »

lukeottevanger

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2008, 08:40:49 AM »
Thanks for that, especially for the sheet music links - I have the score to The People United, and I also had almost all of the scores you linked to at the WIMA, which have been available in various places for a while, but I didn't (until now  ;D ) have the scores to The Road (apart from no 37 which is included in the Carnegie Hall Millenium Piano Book). Nuch obliged - I will be printing these out in time for the arrival of my new piano on Thursday!!

Rzewski is a peculiar figure, as his career splits into two equally unusual and seemingly widely divergent halves - he started as a member of the extreme wing of the experimental avant garde; and then metamorphosed into this extraordinary composer-pianist. Really, these two music types spring from the same common [political] source.

As a composer-pianist of huge, visionary works, he shares something with Busoni and Sorabji, and contemporary figures like Ronald Stevenson and John White (also a member of the experimental avant garde). The extremes to which these composer go is fascinating indeed.

Re recordings - I have a few but the essential thing to get is the 7 disc box set of the man himself performing his major piano works, including many of the scores linked to - Mayn Yingele is a particular treasure, I must say, and of course The People United is the highlight piece for most people. But it is Rzewski's raw, uninhibited, exposed playing/recital of the extraodinary De Profundis which stands out for me. An uncomfortable listen in some ways, but a hugley powerful work unlike anything else I know of.

Offline The new erato

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2008, 08:51:32 AM »
And now we have THIS alternative:


Symphonien

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2008, 10:01:45 PM »
Thanks for that, especially for the sheet music links - I have the score to The People United, and I also had almost all of the scores you linked to at the WIMA, which have been available in various places for a while, but I didn't (until now  ;D ) have the scores to The Road (apart from no 37 which is included in the Carnegie Hall Millenium Piano Book). Nuch obliged - I will be printing these out in time for the arrival of my new piano on Thursday!!

I also have the scores for his Squares and North American Ballades, if you don't have them already. Or if anyone else is interested (plus The People United).

And enjoy your new piano by the way!

Re recordings - I have a few but the essential thing to get is the 7 disc box set of the man himself performing his major piano works, including many of the scores linked to - Mayn Yingele is a particular treasure, I must say, and of course The People United is the highlight piece for most people. But it is Rzewski's raw, uninhibited, exposed playing/recital of the extraodinary De Profundis which stands out for me. An uncomfortable listen in some ways, but a hugley powerful work unlike anything else I know of.

Very interesting - I may indeed have to look into this.

lukeottevanger

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2008, 05:10:25 AM »
I also have the scores for his Squares and North American Ballades, if you don't have them already. Or if anyone else is interested (plus The People United).

Very interested indeed!!

Symphonien

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2008, 01:20:38 AM »

Offline Brewski

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2008, 12:42:52 PM »
Definitely check out this recording by your Australian compatriot Lisa Moore (formerly the pianist with Bang on a Can) of Rzewski's De Profundis.  She gives an affecting performance, and the CD has a nice balance between the piano and spoken parts.



Coincidentally, she is playing an all-Rzewski recital next week in New York, as part of Keys to the Future, a contemporary piano festival.  More info is here.

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Offline toledobass

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2008, 07:26:42 PM »
I saw Rzewski play the Antigone Legend.  This was when I was in my undergrad studies. He pretty much floored me even though the music was way way way over my head at the time.  It was still a sight to behold.  His command of the instrument was nothing I'd ever experienced before. I can't remember if it was during intermission or before the concert,  I was hanging around smoking cigarettes with him and he must have bummed half of my pack chain smoking.  I have yet to see anyone smoke so voraciously.


Allan

Symphonien

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2008, 10:19:37 PM »
Definitely check out this recording by your Australian compatriot Lisa Moore (formerly the pianist with Bang on a Can) of Rzewski's De Profundis.  She gives an affecting performance, and the CD has a nice balance between the piano and spoken parts.


Thanks for the recommendation. Looks like I'll definitely have to hear this piece De Profundis!

I saw Rzewski play the Antigone Legend.  This was when I was in my undergrad studies. He pretty much floored me even though the music was way way way over my head at the time.  It was still a sight to behold.  His command of the instrument was nothing I'd ever experienced before. I can't remember if it was during intermission or before the concert,  I was hanging around smoking cigarettes with him and he must have bummed half of my pack chain smoking.  I have yet to see anyone smoke so voraciously.


Allan

So you actually met Rzewski in person? That's awesome! Cool to see him playing his own works; he sounds like an amazing pianist as well.

I don't think all that smoking is a very good sign though... :o

lukeottevanger

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2008, 12:21:29 AM »
I don't think all that smoking is a very good sign though... :o

In one of the 'Miles' of The Road - the one called Marriage, I think, which is essentially a recitation recounting a murder - the performer is called upon to take drags of a cigarette!

Thanks for that link, btw. In the interim I'd been given another link which led to scores of the North American Ballads, but I hadn't got Squares! Fantastic.

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #10 on: February 21, 2008, 01:04:47 AM »
Thanks to Symphonien for starting this thread. I had never heard of Rzewski. Fascinating!
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

lukeottevanger

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2008, 03:37:08 AM »
If you're on a trip of discovering composers of mammoth piano works (and assuming you already know Sorabji, Busoni etc) do try out Ronald Stevenson, an extremely interesting composer (friend of Sorabji and dedicatee/editor of some of his works) who keeps alive the virtuoso composer-pianist tradition of operatic paraphrases etc. His Passacaglia on DSCH is, IIRC, the longest single movement for solo piano in existence. Here he is showing the great man the score:



and here's a great reveiw of the various recordings of this fascinating piece.

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2008, 04:07:57 AM »
If you're on a trip of discovering composers of mammoth piano works (and assuming you already know Sorabji, Busoni etc) do try out Ronald Stevenson, an extremely interesting composer (friend of Sorabji and dedicatee/editor of some of his works) who keeps alive the virtuoso composer-pianist tradition of operatic paraphrases etc. His Passacaglia on DSCH is, IIRC, the longest single movement for solo piano in existence.

I was at the live performance of this piece in 1988 (iirc) in the Purcell Room, with Raymond Clark playing. Quite an experience. I came over especially from The Netherlands to hear it.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2008, 04:45:11 AM by Jezetha »
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Symphonien

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2008, 05:04:46 AM »
In one of the 'Miles' of The Road - the one called Marriage, I think, which is essentially a recitation recounting a murder - the performer is called upon to take drags of a cigarette!

Wow! I don't think my pianistic technique is capable of such passagework... ;)

From what I've seen so far, The Road seems to have pretty much everything in terms of extended techniques. One of my favourite little extracts as I've been skimming through the scores comes from Mile 56 "The Flood":



;D

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2008, 05:07:08 AM »



;D

This must be one of the most taxing cadenzas in existence. Mozart, eat your heart out! ;)
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

lukeottevanger

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #15 on: February 21, 2008, 05:36:50 AM »
(Should emphasize for those worried by the above that although The Road, especially its later miles, and some other pieces too, do exlpore quite a range of bizarre territory, as befits a member of the experimental music scene, the bulk of Rzewski's piano music is simply excellent music!)

greg

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #16 on: February 21, 2008, 07:51:14 AM »
Wow! I don't think my pianistic technique is capable of such passagework... ;)

From what I've seen so far, The Road seems to have pretty much everything in terms of extended techniques. One of my favourite little extracts as I've been skimming through the scores comes from Mile 56 "The Flood":



;D
man, that must be something to see live.

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2008, 11:39:52 AM »
Here is a very good review of pianist Lisa Moore's 70th birthday tribute to Rzewski last week, written by one of GMG's many piano fans!   :D

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Mark G. Simon

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #18 on: March 07, 2008, 12:13:09 PM »
Many years ago I saw Ursula Oppens playing the North American Ballads, as well as Speculum Musicae performing his Song and Dance. I have Speculum's recording of the latter, and Paul Jacobs' version of the former, both on LP. Time seems right to digitize them.

Symphonien

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Re: Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
« Reply #19 on: March 08, 2008, 05:36:22 PM »
Here is a very good review of pianist Lisa Moore's 70th birthday tribute to Rzewski last week, written by one of GMG's many piano fans!   :D

--Bruce

Sounds like a great concert! It would be very interesting to see how something like The Road works in an actual performance.