Obituary: Composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski, 83

Posted on: June 28, 2021

“Frederic Rzewski, an American-born composer and pianist who worked in manifold musical genres throughout a career that spanned 60 years, died June 26 in Montiano, Italy. He was 83,” writes Tim Page in Saturday’s (6/26) Washington Post. “The cause was an apparent heart attack…. Mr. Rzewski … was best known for a gigantic set of piano variations on a Chilean protest song—‘The People United Will Never Be Defeated!’—which became an anthem of resistance after Gen. Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973. It is a sweetly sentimental tune, to which Mr. Rzewski added dissonances, slamming of the piano lid, quiet whistling from the player and near-impossible pianistic virtuosity…. The piece was created for pianist Ursula Oppens…. Another of his celebrated works was ‘Coming Together’ (1973), a monodrama for actor and ensemble created after the uprising at the Attica state prison in New York.… Frederic Anthony Rzewski was born in Westfield, Mass…. In 1966 … Rzewski co-founded Musica Elettronica Viva … with his fellow American composers Richard Teitelbaum and Alvin Curran. It was a little like an experimental rock band…. Oppens said Mr. Rzewski had been prolific during the pandemic….. One of his last pieces was called ‘Friendship,’ and Oppens played its world premiere in March at the Mannes School of Music.”