Making Music: Frederic Rzewski at Carnegie Hall, 5/1/08


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Thursday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m., Carnegie Hall presents composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski in an evening of music and conversation as part of its Making Music series in Zankel Hall. Moderated by Ara Guzelimian, Provost and Dean of The Juilliard School, the program features Mr. Rzewski, pianist Stephen Drury, actor Steve ben Israel, and new music ensemble Opus 21 performing on an all-Rzewski program that includes the seminal Attica, as well as the New York premiere of Natural Things for chamber orchestra, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival and Opus 21. Complete program information is listed below.

Now in its eleventh season, Carnegie Hall's Making Music series presents contemporary composers in conversation about their musical points of view and includes performances of their own works, featuring many premieres. In addition to Frederic Rzewski, this season's Making Music series has also included concerts focusing on the works of Pierre Boulez (January 17) and Thomas Ades (March 29).

Frederic Rzewski emerged as a major figure of the American musical avant-garde in the 1960s, working as both a composer and performer. He first came to public attention as a performer of new piano music, having participated in the premieres of influential works, including Stockhausen's Klavierstuck X. In 1966, Mr. Rzewski founded, along with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum, the famous ensemble Musica Electronica Viva (MEV). Bringing together both the classical and jazz avant-garde (including Steve Lacy and Anthony Braxton), MEV developed an aesthetic of music as a spontaneous collective process. These musical experiments inspired Mr. Rzewski's first important compositions such as Les moutons de Panurge, which combined spontaneous improvisation with notated instructions.

During the 1970s, Mr. Rzewski's music continued to evolve along these lines, but he also developed new structures for instrumental music that used socially engaged text elements to structure the music. Attica, which includes the recitation of a prison letter, and The People United Will Never Be Defeated are his most well-known works of this period. Throughout the 1980s, Mr. Rzewski expanded his compositional style further to include a number of twelve-tone compositions, though, in the 1990s, he revisited the spontaneous approaches to composition that recall his experiments of the late 1960s. Since 1977, Rzewski has been Professor of Composition at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Liege, Belgium. He has also taught at the Yale School of Music, the University of Cincinnati, the State University of New York at Buffalo, the California Institute of the Arts, the University of California at San Diego, Mills College, the Royal Conservatory of the Hague, the Hochschule der Knste in Berlin, and the Hochschule fur Musik in Karlsruhe. Mr. Rzewski appeared at Carnegie Hall in September 2003, as part of the opening weekend of Zankel Hall.

Pianist Stephen Drury has performed throughout the world, drawing upon a repertoire that stretches from Bach to Liszt to the music of today. He has appeared at the MusikTriennale Kln in Germany, the Subtropics Festival in Miami, the Festival of New American Music in Sacramento, and the North American New Music Festival in Buffalo, as well as at Roulette and the Knitting Factory in New York. In 1999, Mr. Drury was invited by choreographer Merce Cunningham to perform onstage with both Mr. Cunningham and Mikhail Baryshnikov as part of the Lincoln Center Festival. He has given master classes throughout the world, including at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Mannes Beethoven Institute, and Oberlin Conservatory; he has also served on juries for the Concert Artist Guild and Orlans Concours International de Piano XXme Sicle competitions. Mr. Drury has recorded extensively for several labels, championing the music of John Cage, Elliott Carter, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Colin McPhee, John Zorn, and Frederic Rzewski, as well as the works of Liszt and Beethoven. He currently teaches at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he created and directs the school's Summer Institute for Contemporary Piano Performance and also assumed directorship of its Enchanted Circle concert series.

Actor, writer, and director Steve ben Israel made his performing debut in the late 1950s as a comedian in the Greenwich Village “coffee house renaissance," working alongside Tom Paxton, Bob Dylan, and Peter Paul and Mary. In 1961, he appeared in the Theater de Lys production of Threepenny Opera. Mr. Israel then toured the world with the New York-based experimental ensemble Living Theatre, performing in the streets of Brazil, Brooklyn, and Pittsburgh. In the late 1970s, he returned to comedy with his first one-man show, Nostalgic for the Future. In the last 20 years, he has performed a number of one-man shows, including his current theater piece, Nonviolent Executions, and has also performed extensively with his son, the New York based hip-hop performing artist Baba Israel. In 2007, Mr. Israel received an Obie award for work in the theatre.

New music ensemble Opus 21 performs works by composers from all genres, including contemporary classical, jazz, pop, and world music, as well as those whose works fall in the hard-to-define categories in between. The ensemble was founded by composer Richard Adams and gave its debut performance at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City in spring 2003. Opus 21 has since established itself as a truly innovative new music group, revamping the traditional concert experience by presenting side-by-side a diversity of art music and crossover works geared toward audiences with eclectic musical tastes. The ensemble's programming has ranged from the contemporary classical works of William Bolcom, John Harbison, and Steve Reich to the jazz compositions of Dave Brubeck and Fred Hersch; from the art rock music of Frank Zappa to a collaborative performance with legendary Motown pianist Joe Hunter. Other composers who have written for the ensemble include classical composers Eve Beglarian, Martin Bresnick, Chen Yi, Michael Daugherty, Kamran Ince, Tania Leon, and Daniel Bernard Roumain.

Program Information
Thursday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Zankel Hall

Frederic Rzewski, Pianist
Stephen Drury, Piano
Steve ben Israel, Narrator
Opus 21
Ara Guzelimian, Series Moderator

War Songs
Natural Things (New York Premiere, Co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival and Opus 21)
Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues (two piano version)

Carnegie Hall commissions in the 2007–2008 season are made possible, in part, by a grant from the New York State Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Bank of America is the Proud Season Sponsor of Carnegie Hall.

Ticket Information
Tickets, priced at $20 and $26, are available at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, 154 West 57th Street. They may also be charged to major credit cards by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800 or by visiting the Carnegie Hall website, www.carnegiehall.org.

This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz.
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