FREDERIC RZEWSKI (b.1938): Songs of Insurrection.

Catalogue Number: 12W051

Label: Coviello Classics

Reference: COV 92021

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: This 2016 work is for all intents and purposes a sequel to Rzewski's audaciously brilliant 1975 masterpiece The People United Shall Never Be Defeated, 36 variations on the eponymous Chilean revolutionary song. In Songs of Insurrection he constructs a work of similar dimensions, variety, scope, and ferocious, teeming compositional (and technical!) virtuosity from seven songs that symbolise revolutions against the oppressions practiced by different regimes in places as diverse as Germany, Ireland, the USA and Korea. The first theme, "Die Moorsoldaten” from Börgermoor concentration camp, has a slight similarity of contour with The People United, which - certainly by intention - lends the work a sense of continuity with the earlier one. The different character of the songs lend themselves to different and diverse treatments, though by the nature of songs for the use of the people they share a strong tonal basis and a readily accessible melodic contour, making them ideal raw material for variations. In every movement, Rzewski designates a point at which an improvisation may optionally be inserted, and Kotcheff takes full advantage of most of these, including a spectacular, lengthy cadenza, perfectly judged to fit the style of the piece seamlessly, for the third movement, based on the Civil Rights anthem “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around". The fourth movement, based on "Foggy Dew" (the Irish song that chronicles the Easter Rising of 1916, not the slightly risqué English folksong that Britten arranged!) is remarkable for the way in which Rzewski treats the very Irish melody to his characteristic array of pianistic pyrotechnics while never losing the song's national identity, including an evocation of the skirling of the Irish equivalent of the Scottish piobaireachd as idiomatic as Ronald Stevenson’s masterful use of Scottish folksong. The compositional devices used are Rzewski’s customary vocabulary; fluid rhythmic variants of rhythm; rich tonal harmony, constantly in flux; and extravagant octave displacements disguising the tonality and contour of his material; and a limited, economical use of percussive extended techniques to evoke drums, especially in “Oh Bird, Oh Bird, Oh Roller” from the Korean Peasant Rebellion of Donghak, which led to the first Sino-Japanese war, and "Grandola, Vila Morena", a symbol of protest during the 1974 revolution that brought democracy to Portugal. A marvellous work, self-recommending to collectors who thrill to The People United, Stevenson’s Passacaglia, Sorabji, and the various branches of the post-Busoni grand piano tradition. Thomas Kotcheff (piano).

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