Cedille do what they do so well. Here in a disc that kicks
most of the classical orthodoxies we get three works by
Massachusetts-born, Brussels-resident Rzewski. They are
ardently and professionally presented by Eighth Blackbird
- an ensemble of six musicians.
I had better make it clear - although it will probably be obvious - that
this is the first Rzewski I have heard.
The movements of the Pocket Symphony are designated A, B,
C, D, E, F. The music certainly does not feel symphonic
in the senses we absorb from hearing symphonies by Rubbra
or Sibelius or Beethoven. The textures are transparent;
the music is dramatic, dreamily coaxing yet flighty as small
ensemble Prokofiev or Stravinsky. Instruments stand alone
in solos and become reflective and scatty.
There is a feeling of a sort of developmental spontaneity.
Indeed Rzewski, in his printed interview with the musicians, stresses the importance of that ingredient.
The most broken-backed fragmentation comes in the atomised
jazziness of section E. The work is recorded with stunning
impact yet with plenty of air and space. This is heard most
fluently in the breathy, dripping, rumbling and liquidly
babbling ‘temple’ that is section F.
Les Moutons de Panurge is a reference to sheep and
jumping on bandwagons. It's from Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel. Rzewski has here produced
a piece of nervy, incessantly chipping and chiming optimistic
minimalism. It is laced with rumba and gamelan. This must
have gone down well with Louis Andriessen
and the others who attended the premiere given at the Concertgebouw
in the 1970s by Franz Bruggen's
ensemble Sour Cream.
Coming Together: Over a baritonally rippling piano and then
vibraphone accompaniment, a male narrator quietly and musingly
intones the words on a perpetual loop. What is read repeatedly
is the text of a letter by Sam Melville at the time when
he was incarcerated in Attica prison. There was an insurrection
among the prisoners which was put down with mortal force.
Melville was one of those killed. This is the most yielding
of the Rzewski pieces here and packs a potent impact. The
instrumental ‘bed’ extends to take in all members of the
ensemble and other members join the narration with mosaic
scintilla. Polemic and protest in minimalist garb rise at
the very end to vehemence, pain and torment - all hoarsely
wretched-out. The letter is addressed 'to dear brother'
and reaches to the listener across the decades.
Well presented and superbly recorded by Cedille,
the liner notes are in the form of a folded poster rather
than the usual mini-booklet.
Two minimalist pieces still packing the shattering punch of their thirty-plus
year old agenda coupled with a fully confident aural fantasy-mural.