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Program 694: Frederic Rzewski

KALW Broadcast Date: May 1, 2022 | Host: Ed Herrmann

A May Day tribute to the late American composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski (1938 – 2021), whose work often included political and social justice themes. The first hour of the program is devoted to one of Rzewski’s best known pieces – The People United Will Never Be Defeated! – a set of 36 piano variations based on the song “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido.” The song was composed by Sergio Ortega, and became an international anthem for the Chilean resistance following the coup of 1973. We’ll hear the original song as performed by the Chilean group Quilapayún. The People United Will Never Be Defeated! is performed by pianist Ursula Oppens, who commissioned and premiered the piece, and says, “The variations explore all of piano history; that’s why so many pianists like to play them. History changes, but people need to remain united in recognition of the great varieties among us.”

The second hour includes three pieces Rzewski composed for mixed ensembles: Spots and The Lost Melody, written for the group Zeitgeist; and Whimwhams for string quartet and marimba, performed by the Eclipse Quartet and William Winant. The program concludes with an example of an unusual form that Rzewski explored, pieces for piano in which the pianist speaks a text. Stephane Ginsburgh performs excerpts from Dear Diary with original texts by Frederic Rzewski.

Program Audio

30-Second Spot

Track Info & Links

Title: El pueblo unido jamás será vencido
Composer: Sergio Ortega
Performers: Quilapayún
Recording Title: El Pueblo Unido
Record Label: Dicap
Catalog Number: 2 C 064-81827


Title: The People United Will Never Be Defeated!
Composer: Frederic Rzewski
Performer: Ursula Oppens
Recording Title: The People United Will Never Be Defeated!
Record Label: Cedille
Catalog Number: CDR 90000 158


Title: Whimwhams
Composer: Frederic Rzewski
Performers: Eclipse Quartet & William Winant
Recording Title: Eclipse Quartet plays Parkins, Rzewski & Tenney
Record Label: New World Records
Catalog Number: 80740-2


Titles: Spots, The Lost Melody
Composer: Frederic Rzewski
Performers: Zeitgeist
Recording Title: Zeitgeist plays Rzewski
Record Label: OODiscs
Catalog Number: OODiscs 15


Title: Dear Diary
Composer: Frederic Rzewski
Performer: Stephane Ginsburgh
Recording Title: Speaking Rzewski
Record Label: Sub Rosa
Catalog Number: SR523


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