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Frederic Rzewski

April 13, 1938 -
born in Westfield, MA, composed during the Contemporary period
Frederic Rzewski is among the major figures of the American musical avant-garde to emerge in the 1960s, and he has been highly influential as a composer and performer. He was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, earned his B.A. in music at Harvard, and later received an M.F.A. from Princeton, where he had the privilege of studying with Roger Sessions and Milton Babbit. A Fulbright scholarship allowed him to travel to Florence in 1960 to study for a year with Luigi Dallapiccola. Since then, except for a five-year period in the 1970s, he has mainly lived in Europe. He first came to public attention as a performer of new piano music, having participated in the premieres of such monumental works as Stockhausen's Klavierstück X (1962). In 1966, he founded, with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum, the famous ensemble Musica Electronica Viva (MEV). MEV combined free improvisation with written music and electronics. These experimentations directly led to the creation of Rzewski's first important compositions, pieces such as Les moutons de Panurge, a so-called "process piece," which also combines elements of spontaneous improvisation with notated material and instructions. Rzewski's improv-classical hybrids are some of the most successful of the kind ever produced thanks to the fervent energy at the core of his music. During the 1970s, his music continued to develop along these lines, but as his socialist proclivities began to direct his artistic course, he developed new structures for instrumental music that used text elements and musical style as structuring features. Attica, which includes the recitation of a prison letter, and The People United Will Never Be Defeated, a virtuosic set of piano variations, are his most well-known works of the period. In 1977, he was made professor of composition at the Royal Conservatory of Liège, Belgium, and has continued to teach there since. During the 1980s, Rzewski produced a number of surprising twelve tone compositions that (happily) provided fresh ideas of what could be done with serial systems. The 1990s saw him revisiting, via scored music, some highly spontaneous approaches to composition that recall his inspired experiments of the late 1960s. Rzewski's music is among that which defines postwar American new music. He has consistently given the exuberant boyish pleasures of a composer like Copland within the rigorously experimental framework of a composer like Cage. Often unapologetically tonal and fun, Rzewski's music cuts right through the frequent churlishness of avant garde music. ~ Donato Mancini, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Rzewski: Four Pieces

Title: 4 Piano Pieces

1. 4 Piano Pieces: I.

2. 4 Piano Pieces: II.

3. 4 Piano Pieces: III.

4. 4 Piano Pieces: IV.

Title: Hard Cuts

5. Hard Cuts: I.

6. Hard Cuts: II.

7. Hard Cuts: III.

Title: The Housewife's Lament, Variations On A Theme, For Harpsichord

8. The Housewife's Lament, Variations On A Theme, For Harpsichord: The Housewife's Lament

x

Track List: Rzewski: Piano Music - Fantasia; Second Hand, Or Alone At Last; De Frofundis De Profundis, For Speaking Pianist

Title: Fantasia For Piano

1. Fantasia For Piano: Fantasia

Title: Second Hand, Or Alone At Last: 6 Novelettes For Piano, Left Hand

2. Second Hand, Or Alone At Last: 6 Novelettes For Piano, Left Hand: No. 1

3. Second Hand, Or Alone At Last: 6 Novelettes For Piano, Left Hand: No. 2

4. Second Hand, Or Alone At Last: 6 Novelettes For Piano, Left Hand: No. 3

5. Second Hand, Or Alone At Last: 6 Novelettes For Piano, Left Hand: No. 4

6. Second Hand, Or Alone At Last: 6 Novelettes For Piano, Left Hand: No. 5

7. Second Hand, Or Alone At Last: 6 Novelettes For Piano, Left Hand: No. 6

Title: De Profundis, Melodramatic Oratorio For Solo Pianist Playing & Reciting

8. De Profundis, Melodramatic Oratorio For Solo Pianist Playing & Reciting: De Profundis

x

Track List: Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated!

1. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: The People United Will Never Be Defeated!

2. North American Ballads (4) For Piano: IV. Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues

x

Track List: Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated!

Title: The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano

1. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Thema: With Determination

2. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 1: Weaving; Delicate But Firm

3. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 2: With Firmness

4. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 3: Slightly Slower, With Expressive Nuances

5. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 4: Marcato

6. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 5: Dreamlike, Frozen

7. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 6: Same Tempo As Beginning

8. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 7: Tempo (Lightly, Impatiently)

9. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 8: With Agility; Not Too Much Pedal; Crisp

10. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 9: Evenly

11. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 10: Comodo, Recklessly

12. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 11: Temp I. Like Fragments Of An Absent Melody

13. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 12

14. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 13: Tempo = 72

15. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 14: A Bit Faster, Optimistically

16. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 15: Flexible, Like An Improvisation

17. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 16: Same Tempo As Preceding, With Fuctuations; Much Pedal

18. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 17: Lh Strictly

19. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 18

20. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 19: With Energy

21. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 20: Crisp, Precise

22. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 21: Relentless, Uncompromising

23. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 22

24. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 23: As Fast As Possible With Some Rubato

25. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 24

26. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 25: With Tempo Fluctuations

27. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 26: In A Militant Manner

28. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 27: Tenderly, And With A Hopeful Expression

29. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 28

30. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 29

31. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 30

32. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 31

33. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 32

34. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 33

35. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 34

36. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 35

37. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Variation 36

38. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Cadenza (Optional Improvisation)

39. The People United Will Never Be Defeated (El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido), 36 Variations On A Chilean Song, For Piano: Thema: Tempo I

Title: North American Ballads (4) For Piano: No. 3, Down By The Riverside

40. North American Ballads (4) For Piano: No. 3, Down By The Riverside: Down By The Riverside

Title: North American Ballads (4) For Piano: No. 4, Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues

41. North American Ballads (4) For Piano: No. 4, Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues: Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues

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