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Pianist of the Millennium visits Wellington

Internationally renown musician Frederic Rzewski will be holding a series of performances in Wellington this month.

Rzewski has been described by critics as "A prodigious musician in the grand tradition of Mozart, Beethoven and Liszt, combining a dual career as virtuoso pianist and cutting-edge composer". The Independent (USA) said "His gifts are exceptional; there is no other composer today who combines the ability to create with an ability to perform on a level of such devastating virtuosity. Rzewski is a regeneration of a lost breed personified by Liszt, Busoni, Alkan and Rachmaninov".

His music was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as "rhetorically gripping, ferocious in its technical demands and almost dizzyingly inventive in its profusion of material.

American born, Rzewski studied music at Harvard and Princeton Universities. He went to Italy in 1960, where he studied with Luigi Dallapiccola and met Severino Gazzelloni, with whom he performed in a number of concerts, thus beginning a career as a performer of new piano music.

While in Rome in the mid-sixties, together with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum, he formed the MEV (Musica Elettronica Viva) group which quickly became known for its pioneering work in live electronics and improvisation. Bringing together both classical and jazz avant-gardists, MEV developed an aesthetic of music as a spontaneous collective process.

During the 1970’s he experimented further with forms in which style and language are treated as structural elements; the best-known work of this period is The People United Will Never Be Defeated! A 50-minute set of piano variations.

His work during the 1980’s explores new ways of using twelve-tone technique. A freer, more spontaneous approach to writing can be found in more recent work. His largest– scale work to date is The Triumph of Death (1987-88).

Since 1983, he has been Professor of Composition at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Liege, Belgium.

Wellington concert programme – Frederic Rzewski:

Wednesday, August 16, 6pm. Piano master class, Victoria University School of Music. Admission free.

Thursday, August 17, 3pm. Composer workshop, Victoria University School of Music. Admission free.

Thursday, August 17, 5pm. Concert of Rzewski’s music, performed by students from Victoria University’s School of Music and School of Film and Theatre. Rzewski will be present but he does not perform. Admission free.

Saturday, August 19, 8pm. Piano recital by Frederic Rzewski, Ilott Council Chamber. Tickets available through Ticketek.

Included are compositions by Christian Wolf and Henri Pousseur and the premiere of Rzewski’s new composition "Mile 41". Also featured is a performance of "De Profundus", based on excerpts from a letter by Oscar Wilde written while he was incarcerated in jail.

The setting for this work requires the pianist, while playing and speaking the text, to make vocal noises, whistle, hit the outside of the piano, honk a bicycle horn, and slap his face and body.

Sunday, August 20, 3pm. ‘Sonic Broom" Rzewski speaks at a session by New Zealand composers, (e) – Vision Centre, 2 Blair Street, Wellington. Admission free.

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