Sunday, May 3, 2009

El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!

The People United Will Never Be Defeated!
Frederic Rzewski
Performed by Bobby Mitchell

I've probably mentioned before that my favorite musical form is theme and variations. I wore down many an LP in my youth listening to the likes of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations, Brahm's Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Vaughan Williams' Variations on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Henry Purcell), and so forth. It might have been my friend, Donald Elfman who gave me a copy of Ursula Oppens playing Frederic Rzewski's 'The People United Will Never Be Defeated!" I think that Rzewski wrote the piece for Oppens or, at least, she premiered it and recorded the first performance. Now the CD is out of print and the few available are very pricey.

I can't seem to find a CD of the piece for much under 40 bucks. Even if you download the Stephen Drury recording, Amazon will charge you .99 per variation which works out to be $38.

Kudos and thanks to Bobby Mitchell who's posted his mighty performance of this masterpiece. Above is the first of 8 video segments of the work he performed in Rochester, NY on January 19, 2007. Click through to the YouTube post and at the end of each segment, click on the next segment in the sidebar so that you can listen to the entire piece. You can also catch Oppens and Rzewski performing bits in related videos.

This is a monster composition and an exciting, brilliant set of variations that should be a standard in the performance repertoire. It's rare to find true and tangible political expression in musical form. Rzewski takes the popular Sergio Ortega anthem and runs it through thirty-six variations, using the form, itself, to imply that any and all united people shall never be defeated.

No comments: