The People United Will Never Be Defeated!
Ole Kiilerich, piano
The People United Will Never Be Defeated! is a massive set of
piano variations based on a Chilean folk song by pianist and composer Frederic Rzewski. Structurally, it
resembles Beethoven's "Diabelli "variations, or Bach's "Goldberg"
variations. Like the former, it's a virtual catalog of compositional
technique. And like the latter, its 36 variations are divided into six
groups of six.
The People United begins and ends with the same simple
folk tune -- but this is a work that's more about the journey then the
destination. After hearing it transformed by Lisztian piano flourishes,
complex counterpoint, atonal reinterpretations, aleatoric passages, and
extended piano techniques, the listener gains new appreciation for this
tune when it returns intact in the final movement.
Frederic Rzewski is a virtuoso pianist as well as a composer. Like Bach
and Beethoven, he knows -- and continues to push -- what's possible on
his instrument. And that technical command gives the work a sense of
coherence. Like the "Diabelli" and the "Goldberg" variations, this piece
is a marathon -- although more for the performer than the listener.
The variations of The People United have a rhythm and flow to
them that pulls the listener along. The each of the six sections have a
feeling of arrival, although only in the final movement does one get a
sense of completeness.
In the liner notes pianist Ole Kiilerich writes, "I had this odd feeling
that the piece was written just for me to fulfill my conception of
musical expression and I felt an urge to instantly dig deeply into this
overwhelming piece of art right away..."
That compulsion works to his benefit. The performance captured in this
recording is engaging and exciting. Kiilerich has indeed made this
composition his own.
The People United can be listened to in installments. The six
sections provide logical places to enter and exit the composition. But I
recommend hearing the work the way it was intended -- from start to
finish. As I mentioned earlier, "United" is all about the journey. And
it's one that's well worth the time invested.