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.
Rzewski and I during the class.