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