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Frederic Rzewski (b.1938): The People United Will Never Be Defeated! / Omri Shimron, piano

Album Summary

>Rzewski, Frederic : Variations on El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido!
Performer Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Writing about Rzewski's iconic solo piano work, "The People United Shall Never Be Defeated", pianist Ralph van Raat writes that "[T]he extensive duration of... [the] 36 variations is a way of symbolizing the human struggle for change." Pianist Omri Shimron's contribution to the recorded discography of this epic piece brings with it a personal connection that informs, in direct and indirect ways, his interpretation and our ability to see this monumental work in a new light. Shimron, during his study of Rzewski's work, came upon a revelatory discovery -- the Chilean Marxist song that is the basis of the 36 variations in the piece bears an uncanny similarity to a Zionist song his parents were familiar with from their childhoods in pre-1948 Palestine, "Blessing of the People." Shimron's parents immediately recognized the shared characteristics of the two songs, and the whole family became increasingly intrigued by the commonalities between songs of solidarity from different ideological movements halfway across the world. Rzewski's work in fact also references two other Marxist songs from pre-war Germany and Italy. The affinity with the fourth Zionist song led Shimron to decide to base his original cadenza for the piece on the Zionist melody. His approach to the cadenza is nuanced however, treating the melody with a certain degree of circumspection about the erosion of both the Zionist dream and the movement's original ideals. Like many post-modern compositions, The People United is highly referential, drawing explicit and implicit allusions to composers such as Webern (Var.1), Chopin (Var. 9), Stockhausen (Var. 10), Reich (Var. 27), Shostakovich (Var. 28), and Bartók (Var. 29). The wide net cast throughout the piece, both in terms of musical references and extra musical ideological associations, makes The People United a persistently topical and compelling vehicle for powerfully personal interpretations and thought provoking listening experiences. By bringing in a new dimension catalyzed by familial associations and history, Shimron's account allows us to reconsider not just this piece, but also the nature of music of solidarity, both in its folk and concert incarnations. Omri Shimron is a pianist and educator based in Greensboro,NC. Highlights from the past decade include a performance of Michael Quell's 'anisotropie' at the Soundscape/Pavia festival (Italy), a performance of Crumb's Eine kleine Mitternachtmusik, a recording of David Lipten's Whorl on the Ablaze label, the premiere of Five Reflections on the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam by Christopher Dietz, and the NC premiere of Clint Borzoni's A Live Oak Growing. He has also worked closely with several living composers, including Christopher Brakel, Marco Alunno, Ben Hackbarth, Lori Laitman, and Daniel Asia. Shimron is on faculty at the Rebecca Penneys Piano Festival and is a frequent guest and clinician in colleges and universities from Arizona to Jerusalem. He is an associate professor at the Elon University Music Department and has previously taught at Hillsdale College (MI) and Eastern Mediterranean University in northern Cyprus.

American Record Guide, January/February 2015
Shimron has a personal and political stake in this piece. His mother's family died in the Holocaust; his parents, former kibbutz members, were "interested" that the 36 variations in the work were based on a Chilean Marxist song, especially since his mother sang 'The International' each day in her own kibbutz. Shimron contributes a compelling, idiomatic cadenza, 'The Blessing of the People', based on a Russian folk song, which has spiritual and Marxist connections to 'The People United'. It is perhaps this dimension that is responsible for the humanity that pervades this performance of a work that has forbidding technical challenges. That this resolutely Marxist project was recorded in South Carolina, my home state and a bastion of tea party conservatism, gives it a deliciously subversive edge.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: University of South Carolina School of Music (08/2012).


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Works Details

>Rzewski, Frederic : Variations on El Pueblo Unido Jamás Será Vencido!
  • Performer: Omri Shimron (Piano)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 35 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary