- Second Hand, or Alone at Last, novelettes (6), for piano left-hand
American composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski achieved international fame for "The People United Will Never Be Defeated!" (1975), a set of 36 variations for piano on the song "El pueblo unido jamás será vencido"; this highly varied and imaginative work remains the best introduction to his music. However, Rzewski has written other keyboard pieces that display fresh ideas and further extend the capabilities of the pianist. This Naxos album by pianist Robert Satterlee offers three of Rzewski's innovative compositions, the second version of his "Fantasia" (1989-1999), "Second Hand, or Alone at Last" (Six Novelettes for piano, left hand, 2005), and "De Profundis, for speaking pianist" (1992). While the "Fantasia" is restricted to the keyboard, and "Second Hand" is concerned with virtuosic techniques for the left-hand, "De Profundis" is a dramatic setting of Oscar Wilde's eponymous essay, where the pianist not only must play the keyboard, but recite the text as notated, breathe rhythmically, sing, hum, whistle, groan, and strike the body and the piano in a shocking display of self-mortification. This half-hour work is the tour de force of the album, and the most compelling for its frightening depiction of Wilde's imprisonment in Reading Gaol and subsequent spiritual ordeals. Satterlee impresses with both his control of the piano part and his skill as a vocalist and actor, and he meets the extreme demands of the role without slipping into caricature. The recording is adequate for the piano part, but the microphone should have been closer to Satterlee in "De Profundis" to give him greater presence.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Frederic Rzewski: Piano Music based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Unusual contemporary work from Frederic Rzewski This disc consists of 3 different works by Frederic Rzewski – Fantasia, Second Hand (Six Novelettes for piano, left hand), and De Profundis (for Speaking Pianist). The first piece (Fantasia) is rather rhythmic, but is most definitely contemporary – almost Charles Ives like -- and does not leave the listener walking away with a particular hummable tune. The short liner notes indicate that the composer revised the piece ten years after its inception and “…changed the music to obscure the tune, putting in lots of wrong notes and kind of stomping on and smudging everything.” Enough said there. Much more satisfying are the Six Novelettes for piano left hand, which are essentially studies for the left hand alone. These are interesting exercises that push the pianist through melodic and rhythmic digital gymnastics, but are pleasing nonetheless. As for the last piece (De Profundis for Speaking Pianist), has an interesting premise – that being to bring forth eight sections of text by Oscar Wilde (written while Wilde was imprisoned for homosexual offences) and accompany them all manner of painful chords and percussive sounds. Unfortunately for me, the work itself descended into the realm of performance art and I found myself sufficiently distracted by the vocal and non-vocal histrionics such that I looked forward to the end of the work. The pianist, Robert Satterlee, chose difficult material to perform and record, which is laudable. And if this sort of contemporary sound is what you gravitate toward, then you might find something of value here. But if you are the cadre of listeners that finds themselves wondering when the noise is going to stop, then I would avoid this particular recording.