Ursula Oppens and Frederic Rzewski | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Ursula Oppens and Frederic Rzewski


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Frederic Rzewski belongs to that rare American breed: a committed political composer who cares about accessibility. In the early days of his career, the Harvard-trained, now Belgium-based composer dabbled in just about every avant-garde idiom. But since the early 70s his main interests have been political, and he's forged a largely tonal style to address topical events such as the prisoner uprising in Attica and the aborted Allende regime in Chile. Recognizing the avant-garde's ironic tendency to play to a socioeconomic group opposite the one whose oppressions it protests, Rzewski has included overtly popular and accessible elements in his more recent music. One such example is Night Crossing With Fisherman (1994), a work for two pianos that mixes formal design with lyrical improvisation and concludes with a recitation of a moral-laden passage from the Arabian Nights about the futile toils of a fisherman. Another is Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues, a 1980 arrangement of a folk ballad that offers a riveting musical image of a factory's loud din. Both pieces are on the extraordinary new-music piano-duo showcase pairing Rzewski--also a formidable keyboardist--with his longtime collaborator and eloquent champion, Ursula Oppens of Northwestern University. Also featured are Two Pianists by Christian Wolff--another renowned political composer--and Lois V. Vierk's collage of ethereal sounds, whose title, Spin 2, refers to a subatomic particle identified by Stephen Hawking. Sunday, 3 PM, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 1977 South Campus Dr., Evanston; 663-1628. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Christian Steiner.

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