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A week with Rzewski (including pictures!)
#510031 10/24/06 06:39 PM
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Brendan Offline OP
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Also known as "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, MR. MODERATOR?!?!?"

So pianist/composer/writer/icon Frederic Rzewski was in Kansas City last week, where he gave a recital, presentations, interviews, and masterclasses for piano and composition. The whole experience was rather overwhelming and it was, for me, a formative moment.

His playing and improvising, I believe, is the closest thing we will hear today that compares to Beethoven improvising. It was simply thrilling, I was amazed by the many different directions that his music took. The program was three recently-composed pieces, "Dust," "Cadenza" (an elaborate cadenza for Beethoven's Fourth Concerto), and "Stop the War," coupled with his "Four Piano Pieces" from the 1970s. It was the first time I heard the Four Pieces in concert, and I am still in shock after observing the ease with which he played them (they're on the level of "The People United" variations).

The next day, I played "De Profundis" in his masterclass. If you haven't heard this piece, RUN out and get his recording, or any for that matter. It's a wrenching 30-minute account of the last years of Oscar Wilde, spent in humiliation and self-imposed exile. The piece itself is a mix between music theatre, performance art, and extreme piano virtuosity. The only thing that I was sure the masterclass wasn't going to be was a piano lesson. It seemed that Rzewski took it for granted that the performers were all fully capable of playing his demanding scores. He was very enthusiastic the whole time, and gave me lots of ideas on how far I can take the theatre aspect of it, going so far as to include lighting, choreography, and possibly even staging. What I most liked was that it wasn't a "in measure 45..." nitpicky type of masterclass; he seemed to appreciate everyone's interpretation and wanted to build on what was already there. I'm planning on coupling it with Martin Bresnick's "For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise," which is also for speaking pianist and DVD projection. It will be a recital that I will fully enjoy producing, and I'm happy to say that I've already sold some venues on the idea.

The impression that I got was that Rzewski, at his core, is a shy guy, and a bit of a prankster with a good sense of humor. He has very passionate opinions about many things, both music and non-music related, and was very keen on getting us to really think about what we are doing as musicians.

Anyway, here are some hot hot pictures:


From left to right: Shoko (my wife), Andrew (a friend from Wichita), Chris (a studio friend), Karen Kushner, Robert Weirich (my teacher!), Rzewski, Myself.
[Linked Image]


Rzewski and I during the class.
[Linked Image]

Re: A week with Rzewski (including pictures!)
#510032 10/24/06 08:22 PM
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Wow! What an experience. What a thrill to rub shoulders with unbridled genius. I loved reading your account. From the bit I've been exposed to him, your account will certainly make me explore more.

Re: A week with Rzewski (including pictures!)
#510033 10/24/06 10:31 PM
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Why was his improvisation like Beethoven's, Brendan ? Do you mean he used the same keyboard vocabulary as Beethoven's music ? In what way would it differ from that of, say, Jarrett for instance ? Can you give us a few objective, descriptive clues about what it sounded like; I'm curious.


"We shall always love the music of the masters, but they are all dead and now it's our turn." - Llewelyn Jones, my piano teacher
Re: A week with Rzewski (including pictures!)
#510034 10/25/06 09:53 AM
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Wow, thats great. Ironically, im listening to the people united now! laugh Actually, I heard it for the first time this year played by bob shannon at oberlin... great!


"Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time."

-Albert Camus,

Jim
Re: A week with Rzewski (including pictures!)
#510035 10/25/06 10:24 AM
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let me get my glasses.

sounds great. (i suppose that is what you played on Sunday while i froze at a pool in Roeland Park)


accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)
Re: A week with Rzewski (including pictures!)
#510036 10/25/06 01:27 PM
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Thank you for sharing!

Re: A week with Rzewski (including pictures!)
#510037 10/25/06 01:34 PM
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I am (sigh) envious.
Thank you for sharing.

Re: A week with Rzewski (including pictures!)
#510038 10/25/06 03:39 PM
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WOW!! Rzewski is by far my favorite modern composer, and De Profundis is one of my favorite pieces from any time period. You didnt happen to make a recording of your performance did you? hehe

I would love to hear it, if you did.

Sounds like an awe inspiring experience. eek

Re: A week with Rzewski (including pictures!)
#510039 10/25/06 04:27 PM
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Quote
Originally posted by Ted:
Why was his improvisation like Beethoven's, Brendan ? Do you mean he used the same keyboard vocabulary as Beethoven's music ? In what way would it differ from that of, say, Jarrett for instance ? Can you give us a few objective, descriptive clues about what it sounded like; I'm curious.
Sure.

Beethoven's Fantasy in G minor is basically a written-out improvisation, but it still manages to be an expressive work that takes many dramatic turns. In a way, it's similar to his late sonatas, specifically the second movement of op. 111, where he takes a basic idea and then spins it out and rips it apart in every way imagineable.

Rzewski's improvisations were much the same. Even though I had never heard the pieces on the first half before, there was always an identifiable melodic cell or element that came back throughout each piece. Rzewski said that he never really knows exactly what he does during an improvisation after the fact, but I got the sense that while he is improvising he's building it all on small ideas and contrasts.

I don't know if that makes sense, but if you can get ahold of Rzewski playing some of his own works that require improvisation (like the North American Ballades), it might be clearer just to listen to that.

Re: A week with Rzewski (including pictures!)
#510040 10/25/06 04:52 PM
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..second movement of op. 111..

..cell or element..

..never really knows exactly what he does during an improvisation after the fact..

..small ideas and contrasts..

Yes, these make an astonishing amount of sense to me. Thank you.


"We shall always love the music of the masters, but they are all dead and now it's our turn." - Llewelyn Jones, my piano teacher
Re: A week with Rzewski (including pictures!)
#510041 10/26/06 01:47 PM
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Brendan,

Please let us know, with as much advance notice as you can give, when you're going to be playing these. I'd like to hear them.

Jim


There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians

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