From ‘Songs of Insurrection’ – Frederic Rzewski (Bobby Mitchell, piano)

As the title of this piano cycle implies, these Songs of Insurrection were sung for an important purpose. That Frederic Rzewski quotes Walt Whitman on the first page of the score - "Viva to those who have fail'd!" - reminds us that the struggle is far from over. The first and second of these songs were sung during World War II, the Moorsoldaten in Germany and Katyusha in Russia where the tune originated, although it also became very popular among the partisan movement in Italy. Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around was a well-known song during the civil rights movement in the USA. Foggy Dew and Oh Bird, Oh Bird, Oh Roller respectively sonify the Easter Uprising in Ireland and the Donghak Peasant Revolution in Korea.

Frederic Rzewski remains one of the very important pianist-composer-improvisers alive and active today. His continued output includes new piano works such as Amoramaro for pianist Lisa Moore and America: A Poem, based on the poem by Allen Ginsberg and dedicated to pianist Stéphane Ginsburgh.

Bobby Mitchell's pianism oscillates between approaching the standard repertoire in a way that makes it sound like new music, and approaching new music with an ear grounded in the classical pianist-improviser-virtuoso tradition. Right now, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Frederic Rzewski keep him spiritually well and pianistically in shape.

Artwork design and mastering by Oliver Barrett

Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938) - from Songs of Insurrection (2016):
Die Moorsoldaten (Germany)
Katyusha (Russia)
Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around (USA)
Foggy Dew
Oh Bird, Oh Bird, Oh Roller (Korea)


Frederic Rzewski

Born in Westfield, Massachusetts in 1938, Frederic Rzewski studied music at first with Charles Mackey of Springfield, and subsequently with Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, and Milton Babbitt at Harvard and Princeton Universities. He went to Italy 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-sixties, together with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum, he formed the MEV (Musica Elettronica Viva) group, which quickly became known for its pioneering work in live electronics and improvisation.

Since 1977 Rzewski has been Professor of Composition at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Liege, 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 Kuenste in Berlin, and the Hochschule fuer Musik in Karlsruhe.