Composer and Pianist Frederic Rzewski
Performs Solo Concert at On Stage Black Box.
March 3, 2017
Noted composer and virtuosic pianist Frederic Rzewski will open Tigertail's FIRE festival with a solo concert on Saturday, April 1, 2017, at 8:30 PM at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium On.Stage Black Box, 2901 W. Flagler Street in Miami. The concert is titled Music of Resistance (piano pieces based on great revolutionary songs of the 20th century). Admission is $35 for General Admission and $50 for VIP (table seating and complimentary beverage). Tickets are available at www.tigertail.org or by phoning Tigertail at 305 324 4337 during office hours, 9am to 5pm M-F.
Frederic Rzewski [pronounced zheff-skee] is recognized both for his innovative works and for his strong political convictions. His pieces often bridge the gap between classical music and avant-garde jazz. Born in Massachusetts in 1938 and based in Brussels, this major figure will make a rare appearance in the U.S. for a single Miami concert.
Rzewski began playing piano at age five. He received his bachelors degree at Harvard University and his master's at Princeton University, where his teachers included Randall Thompson, Roger Sessions, Walter Piston and Milton Babbitt. In 1960, a trip to Italy was formative in his future musical development. In addition to studying there with Luigi Dallapiccola, he began a career as a performer of new piano music, often with an improvisatory element. A few years later he co-founded Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV) with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum. MEV conceived music as a collective, collaborative process, with improvisation and live electronic instruments prominently featured.
In 1977, after returning to New York for six years and unable to find a teaching job in the United States – perhaps due to his outspoken political views – Rzewski became Professor of Composition at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Liège, Belgium, then directed by Henri Pousseur. Occasionally he has taught for short periods at schools and universities throughout the U.S. and Europe, including Yale University, the University of Cincinnati, the California Institute of the Arts, the University of California, San Diego, the Royal Conservatory of The Hague and Trinity College of Music, London.
Many of Rzewski's works are inspired by secular and socio-historical themes, show a deep political conscience and feature improvisational elements. Some of his better-known works include The People United Will Never Be Defeated! (36 variations on the Sergio Ortega song El pueblo unido jamás será vencido), a set of virtuosic piano variations written as a companion piece to Beethoven's Diabelli Variations; Coming Together, which is a setting of letters from Sam Melville, an inmate at Attica State Prison, at the time of the famous riots there in 1971; North American Ballads; Night Crossing with Fisherman; Fougues; Fantasia and Sonata; The Price of Oil, and Le Silence des Espaces Infinis, both of which use graphical notation; Les Moutons de Panurge; and the Antigone-Legend, which features a principled opposition to the policies of the State, and which was premiered on the night that the United States bombed Libya in April 1986. Among his most recent compositions are the Nanosonatas (2006-2010) and the 2003 Cadenza con o senza Beethoven, written for Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto.
About the political slant of his compositions, Rzewski says, "People keep harping on this political motif, and I've never understood why they think it's so important. If it were pop music, it would be considered natural. But an American classical composer is supposed to be right-wing or an academic or just removed from reality. This used to torment me on airplanes, You'd meet a businessman and they'd say, 'Oh, you're a musician, what kind of music do you make?' and I always used to stammer something. But then I found a way that seems to work well. I say 'I do traditional music.' And people seem to accept that. And it's true. I'm just a traditional musician."
In 1993, Nicolas Slonimsky wrote in Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians that Rzewski "… is furthermore a granitically overpowering piano technician, capable of depositing huge boulders of sonoristic material across the keyboard without actually wrecking the instrument."
Here is the tentative program for the Miami concert, with Rzewskis notes:
1. Ballad No. 6, 1980 (Life Is A Toil, or The Housewife's Lament)
A song written in the 1850's by Mrs. Sara A. Price of Ottawa, Illinois. It describes a dream in which she is submerged by the waves on an island as she vainly attempts to sweep them away with her broom.
2. Mayn Yingele (1988)
This song, written in 1887 on a traditional Yiddish ballad by the New York sweatshop poet Morris Rosenfeld, served as a theme for 24 variations that began writing on the 50th anniversary of "Kristallnacht" (the beginning of the systematic persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany).
3. Ain't Goinna Let Nobody Turn Me Around (Songs of Insurrection No. 3, 2016)
This is surely a 19th-century gospel song, but became known in the 1960's as an anthem of the civil rights movement.
4. Foggy Dew (Songs of Insurrection No. 4, 2016)
Probably the best known song to have emerged from the Irish "Easter Rising" of 1916, which led to Irish independence.
5. War Songs (2010)
Ten short pieces based on several antiwar songs from five centuries, all heard simultaneously.
6. Katyusha (Songs of Insurrection No. 2)
Written in 1941 on the German invasion of the USSR, this song was quickly adopted with new texts by the resistance movements of several countries, like Greece and Italy (Fischia Il Vento).
7. Wake Up! (Dreams No. 8, 2014)
A children's song by Woody and Marjorie Guthrie in "Songs to Grow Big On".
8. Los Cuatros Generales (Songs of Insurrection No. 6)
The great song (with words by the poet Garcia Lorca) from the Spanish Civil War.
9. The Peat-Bog Soldiers (Die Mohrsoldaten), 2015
Probably the most famous antifascist song of the 20th century, written in the Nazi camps in 1932 by the prisoners themselves. At the first performance it proved so popular that the Nazi guards (who also thought of themselves as "peat-bog soldiers") joined in the singing.
10. El Pueblo Unido jamás será Vencido (The People United Will Never Be Defeated, 1975, finale)
By the Chilean composer Sergio Ortega, written a few months before the coup d'état of 1973.
Founded in Miami in 1979, Tigertail Productions is Florida's pioneer of innovative cultural work, and produces a full season of contemporary performance, along with projects in the literary and visual arts.
Tigertail will present a full season of music, dance and spoken word events to mark its 37th year of cultural work in Miami. In these 37 years, Tigertail has commissioned and presented more than 580 artists in dance, music, theater, film and video, as well as the visual and literary arts. The 37th season will climax in the month April with the FIRE festival.
Frederic Rzewski – solo piano concert
Saturday, April 1, 2017, 8:30pm
Miami Dade County Auditorium On.Stage Black Box 2901 West Flagler Street, Miami 33135
$35 general admission $50 VIP priority entrance, complimentary beverage