eminent composer and pianist frederic rzewski to visit mannes school of music

Mannes Students Will Perform A Program of Rzewski's Compositions as Part of the Mannes Sounds Festival on Tuesday, April 24, 7:30 pm


The New School's Mannes School of Music welcomes Frederic Rzewski to campus on the occasion of the composer’s 80th birthday. Rzewski, perhaps best known for the Chilean protest anthem “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!,” will work with Mannes student musicians, who will perform a program of his compositions, curated by pianist and Mannes faculty member Ursula Oppens.

The program will include "Four Hands," "Songs of Insurrection" Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 (New York premiere), "Jefferson" for soprano and piano, and "De Profundis" for speaking pianist. A Q&A session with Rzewski will follow the performance.

“As the great composer, pianist and improviser Frederic Rzewski celebrates his 80th birthday, it’s wonderful to have him here at Mannes to work with our students as they’re learning his music,” said Ursula Oppens. “It’s a rare opportunity for young musicians to work closely with such a composer. I’m delighted to be able to foster this collaboration and to see great music making shared from one generation to the next.”


Frederic Rzewski

Born in Westfield, Massachusetts in 1938, Frederic Rzewski studied music first with Charles Mackey of Springfield, and subsequently with Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, and Milton Babbitt at Harvard and Princeton Universities. He went to ltaly 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. Rzewski's early friendship with Christian Wolff and David Behrman, and, through Wolff, his acquaintance with John Cage and David Tudor, strongly influenced his development in both composition and performance. In Rome in the mid 1960s, together with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum, he founded 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 like Steve Lacy and Anthony Braxton, MEV developed an aesthetic of music as a spontaneous collective process, one that was shared with other experimental groups of the same period such as Living Theatre and the Scratch Orchestra.

The experience of MEV can be felt in Rzewski's compositions of the late sixties and early seventies, which combine elements derived equally from the worlds of written and improvised music (Les Moutons de Panurge, Coming Together). During the seventies 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 5O-minute set of piano variations.

A number of pieces for larger ensembles written between 1979 and 1981 show a return to experimental and graphic notation (Le Silence des Espaces Infinis, The Price of Oil), while much of the work of the 1980s explores new ways of using twelve-tone technique (Antigone-Legend, The Persians). A freer, more spontaneous approach to writing can be found in more recent work (Whangdoodles, Sonata). Rzewski's largest-scale work to date is The Triumph of Death (1987-8), a two-hour oratorio based on texts adapted from Peter Weiss's 1995 play Die Ermittlung (The Investigation).

Since 1977 Rzewski has been Professor of Composition at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Liège, 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 Künste in Berlin, and the Hochschule fur Musik in Karlsruhe.

Mannes Sounds Festival

Founded in 1999 by pianist and Mannes faculty member Pavlina Dokovska, Mannes Sounds Festival is a staple of the cultural life of New York City. From September to May each year, Mannes’s gifted students, distinguished faculty members and renowned guest artists perform at prestigious concert venues and cultural institutions across the city, such as Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Union Club, Steinway Hall, the Consulate of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bohemian National Hall and many others. Programming for each festival, curated by Ms. Dokovska, spans the classical and contemporary repertory.


Tuesday, April 24, 7:30 pm in the Auditorium at 66 W. 12th Street

Members of the press must RSVP with Will Wilbur.


Now in its second century as a dynamic musical center, Mannes School of Music is a standard bearer for innovative artistry, dedicated to developing citizen artists who engage their communities and the world through music. Through its undergraduate, graduate, professional studies, and preparatory programs, Mannes offers a curriculum as imaginative as it is rigorous, taught by a world-class faculty and visiting artists. As part of The New School’s College of Performing Arts, together with the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music and the School of Drama, Mannes makes its home on The New School’s Greenwich Village campus in a state-of-the-art facility at the newly renovated Arnhold Hall.


79 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003


Media Contact:

Will Wilbur, The New School
212.229.5667 x 3990

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