FRED­ERIC RZEWSKI: Four Pieces/ Hard Cuts/The House­wife’s Lament (Naxos)

Pasatiempo - - PASA TEMPOS - — James M. Keller

When mu­sic lovers think of the Amer­i­can com­poser Fred­eric Rzewski (born 1938), the piece that first comes to mind is most likely to be The Peo­ple United Will Never Be De­feated! , his stunning set of vari­a­tions on a Chilean song of protest that has been star­tling au­di­ences since 1975. He com­posed his Four Pieces in 1977 as a sort of mu­si­cal se­quel to that work. It is prob­a­bly a po­lit­i­cal se­quel, too, since it also cites a cou­ple of Chilean protest songs. Else­where in the set, his in­spi­ra­tion comes from the jazz of Th­elo­nious Monk and per­haps the in­tro­spec­tion of Shostakovich. Rzewski is him­self an im­pres­sive pi­anist, and all his pi­ano mu­sic re­quires a soloist ca­pa­ble of great vir­tu­os­ity and sen­si­tive col­or­ing. The Dutch pi­anist Ralph van Raat fills the bill ad­mirably, toss­ing off the com­poser’s bold phrases with pas­sion­ate élan and tech­ni­cal fa­cil­ity. The com­poser looks to old-time Amer­ica in The

House­wife’s Lament (1980), a set of vari­a­tions on a mid-19th­cen­tury tune — here, vari­a­tions that lead to boo­gie-woo­gie, ma­chine-age crash­ing, and plenty else. Rzewski’s Hard

Cuts (2011), for pi­ano and cham­ber en­sem­ble, brings us up to date with his ac­tiv­i­ties. Touches of Bachian coun­ter­point, Mozartian trans­parency, and We­ber­nian pointil­lism en­liven this un­pre­dictable score, which van Raat again dis­patches stun­ningly, as­sisted by the en­sem­ble Lu­na­park. On this disc, se­ri­ous mod­ern mu­sic meets fun lis­ten­ing.

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