Frederic Rzewski Celebrates 75

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The great composer-pianist tradition from Mozart to Bartok prevails in the early 21st century through Frederic Rzewski, who celebrates his 75th birthday this Saturday, April 13. To mark the occasion, fellow composer-pianist Jed Distler returns to Q2 Music, paying tribute to one of new music’s iconic veterans.

The celebration begins with the shimmering, gong-like sonorities of Rzewski’s Piano Piece No. 4, from a live May 2011 recording of pianist Lisa Moore at Abrons Arts Center, and continues with a dazzling rendition of Which Side Are You On performed by the composer himself and taken from a rare 1980 studio recording. The next selection, A Life, represents a stark, lyrical and contemplative response to the death of Rzewski’s friend and colleague, John Cage.

For all of his progressive and avant-garde connections, Rzewski often calls himself a “traditional” composer. We close the show with his Andante con moto (Fourteen Variations Without a Theme by Beethoven) which uses the slow movement of Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata as a launching pad for more modern-day exploration, not to mention virtuosic challenges that Rzewski dispatches with effortless authority in a hard-to-find Newport Classics label recording.