Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ralph van Raat performs Frederic Rzewski

Frederic Rzewski: Four Pieces; Hard Cuts; The Housewife's Lament
Ralph van Raat, piano
Lunapark; Arnold Marinissen, percussion

Pianist/composer Frederic Rzewski is best known for The People United Will Never Be Defeated!. Echoes of that massive set of piano variations can be heard in this program of shorter works by Rzweski.

The Housewife's Lament, like The People..., is a set of variations on a pre-existing tune. Although the scope of the variations is much smaller than The People... they're no less though. Rzewski breaks the simple tune into its component parts and uses them in new and surprising ways, showing the full potential of the source material.

The Four Pieces of 1977, to my ears, are almost a catalog of Rzewski's style. There syncopated rhythms, hints of jazz, folk-derived melodies, and Rzewski's unique voicing of chords, all coming together in these four studies. If one needed an introduction to Rzewski, the Four Pieces would be a good place to start.

Pianist Ralph van Raat has an exceptional rapport with this music, and his performances of them hold up well in comparison to Rzewski's own. Hard Cuts was composed for Ralph van Raat and Lunapark, who perform the work on this album. In this case, "hard" doesn't necessarily mean "difficult" -- but it does mean sudden. The work is a heady melange of melodic and harmonic elements that rapidly jump from one to the other. It's an exciting work, made even more so by the performances of van Raat and Lunapark.

If you only know Rzewski through The People... this recording will add to your understanding and appreciation of his unique compositional voice. If you haven't yet heard The People... this recording can help prepare you to better appreciate Rzewski's masterwork. Either way, I highly recommend this release.

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