Marc-André Hamelin (piano)
To the uninitiated it is hard to describe the musical world of the American composer Frederic Rzewski. A pianist himself, Rzewski initially made a name for himself as a champion of the avant-garde, performing everything from Cage to Boulez. In the '70s his own music took a much more populist turn as his political beliefs drove him to find a much more approachable language, basically tonal and incorporating much quotation from popular music. It is music of this period that is recorded here.
The People United Will Never Be Defeated! 36 Variations on a Chilean protest song, has been likened to a twentieth-century 'Diabelli' Variations. This lengthy work is a tour de force of compositional and keyboard virtuosity, exhilarating and emotionally all-encompassing in its effect. Marc-André Hamelin has been playing the work for many years and has become one of its greatest champions, though the fact that many other pianists have also taken it up confirms that the piece is becoming a twentieth-century classic. Similiar in idiom are the two North American Ballads that complete the recital; once again popular melodies are woven into a fabric which in Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues includes the stunning representation of the mechanical noise of the mill.