Frederic Rzewski

New Works: The Road/Whangdoodles/To the Earth

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The first two parts of a planned eight-section piece called, as a whole, The Road, are included here, both performed by the composer as soloist. "Turns" is a series of two-minute miniatures resembling fugues, based in part on popular themes, but in a much more abstract manner than the works from the '70s that originally brought Frederic Rzewski to prominence. "Tracks" is a string of variations loosely based on the folk song "900 Miles," loosely enough to incorporate swats at the piano body, whistling, and several improvisatory passages. The trio of David Abel/Julie Steinberg/William Winant is employed for "Whangdoodles," a delightful romp through back road Americana as embodied in hobo songs, as well as several Yiddish themes. The work is composed in an improvisatory style which Rzewski likens to the Japanese technique of controlled throwing of ink onto paper. This results in an enticing looseness of approach and of avenues which may have gone untaken had the composer "thought" more about them. Additionally, the instrumentation of piano, violin, and hammered dulcimer provide an aural pleasure as sweet as it is unusual. The final selection, "To the Earth," is a crowd-pleaser when performed live. Here, William Winant draws the dual duties of percussionist (on tuned ceramic flower pots) and speaker, delivering the Homeric text with an agreeable down-to-earth matter-of-factness. This is a fine disc and served notice that there was life in Rzewski after his great romantic/political compositions of the '70s.

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