LEBRECHT LISTENS | Ukrainian Pianist Vadym Kholodenko Affords Compelling Interpretation Of Rzewski

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Frederic Rzewski, November 20, 2011 (Picture: Christian Mondrup/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Frederic Rzewski: The Individuals United Will By no means Be Defeated (Quartz Music)


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The American composer, dwelling in Italy till his loss of life final yr, was prompted by the 1973 overthrown of Chilean president Salvador Allende to compose 36 variations on the fallen regime’s populist marketing campaign music, El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido.

Regardless of lasting virtually an hour and containing episodes of atonal fury, the piece was rapidly and ceaselessly recorded, first in 1976 by its dedicatee Ursula Oppens, and latterly by the German pianist Igor Levit. In all, there are a dozen recordings. None has captured my consideration so compellingly as this new launch by the 2013 Van Cliburn winner, the Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko.

Rzewski’s rating expands classical theme-and-variations technique by interleaving two further, politically associated themes — the Italian Bandera Rossa and Hanns Eisler’s Solidarity Music. Every acts as a breaker on the unique theme, clocking in as variations 13 and 26, each difficult the prevailing texture and advancing it. The music goes from an virtually Schubertian delicacy to Webernian dissonances that will make a half-dead home cat sit up and assume. Variation 15 calls to thoughts the environment of Arlo Guthrie’s Hobo’s Lullaby. Variation 18 is pure cabaret.

Kholodenko is the primary pianist I’ve heard who conceives the Rzewski set as a unity, decoding it as a linear descendant of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, with added ardour and rage. Though he made the recording a yr in the past in St Petersburg, one can not assist listening to anticipations of the current insanity between Russia and Ukraine. Aged 36, Kholodenko has identified extra private triumph and tragedy previously decade than most of us expertise in a lifetime. His enjoying pulls no punches.

The Rzewski Variations are preceded by Beethoven’s A-major set on a Russian theme, written for the spouse of the Tsar’s chief intelligence officer in Vienna. To say that it falls in need of Ashkenazy and Brendel is to not diminish Kholodenko. Quite the opposite, it locations him within the very highest calibre of classical pianist and lights his path forward. By no means heard of him? Simply hearken to the Rzewski.

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