Frederic Rzewski

(b. 13 April 1938, Westfield, Massachusetts – d. 26 June 2021, Montiano, Magliano in Toscana).

American composer, resident in Belgium and Italy, of mostly chamber, vocal and piano works that have been performed throughout the world; he was also active as a pianist.

Prof. Rzewski studied music privately with Charles Mackey in Springfield, Massachusetts as a child and studied composition with Walter Piston, counterpoint with Randall Thompson and orchestration with Claudio Spies at Harvard University from 1954–58. He studied composition with Milton Babbitt and Roger Sessions and the music of Richard Wagner with Oliver Strunk at Princeton University from 1958–60, where he also studied literature and philosophy from Greece. In addition, he studied composition privately with Luigi Dallapiccola in Rome in 1960.

As a pianist, he frequently performed with the flautist Severino Gazzelloni in the 1960s. He then co-founded with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum the improvisational and live electronic ensemble Musica Elettronica Viva in Rome in 1966 and performed with it from 1966–71. He was thereafter active as a pianist, primarily in performances of his own pieces and music by other contemporary composers.

He taught at the Conservatoire royal de musique in Liège from 1977–2003, where he was Professeur de Composition from 1983–2003. He gave lectures in Germany, the Netherlands and the USA.





The Persians – Les Perses – Die Perser (music-theatre work, text by the composer, after Æschylus), 4 soloists, 5 actors, bass clarinet (+ contrabass clarinet, sopranino saxophone), trombone, double bass (+ bass guitar), piano, 2 percussion, 1985

The Triumph of Death (staged oratorio, text by Peter Weiss), 4 voices, string quartet, 1987–88


Nature Morte, small orchestra (winds, French horn, trumpet, harp, piano, organ, 5 percussion, violin, cello), 1964

A Long Time Man, piano, orchestra, 1979

Satyrica, guitar, double bass, piano, synthesizer, vibraphone, percussion, symphonic band, 1983

Una breve Storia d'Estate, 3 flutes, orchestra, 1983

Scratch Symphony, 1997

Movable Types, 1999

Concerto, piano, orchestra, 2012


Speculum Dianæ, any 8 improvisational players, 1964

Selfportrait, any player, 1964

Prose Pieces, improvisational ensemble, 1967–68

Les Moutons de Panurge, any number of melody instruments, 1968

Last Judgment, trombone/any number of unison trombones, 1969

Second Structure, improvisational ensemble, 1972

Song and Dance, flute, bass clarinet, double bass, vibraphone, 1976

Thirteen Instrumental Studies, variable ensemble, 1972–77

Moonrise with Memories, bass trombone, ensemble (any 6 instruments in the soprano range), 1978

Three Pieces, soprano saxophone, trombone, piano, 1979

Aria, flute, 1981

Pennywhistlers, recorder, 1981

Wails, bass clarinet (+ sopranino saxophone), piano, 2 percussion, 1984

Lost and Found (percussionist also speaks), percussion, 1985

To the Earth (percussionist also speaks), percussion, 1985

Spots, any 4 players, 1986

Don't Have it Today (double bassist also speaks), double bass, 1986

The Lost Melody, clarinet, piano, 2 percussion, 1989

Roses, flute, clarinet, trumpet, tuba, violin, cello, accordion, percussion, 1989

Aerial Tarts, flute, clarinet/saxophone, violin, cello, piano, 2 percussion, 1990

Whangdoodles, hammered dulcimer (+ mallet instruments ad libitum), violin, piano, 1990

Shtick, clarinet/soprano saxophone, 1990

Knight, cello, 1992

Holes, any 4–8 players, 1993

Crusoe, any 4–12 players, 1993

Histories, 4 saxophones, 1993

Whimwhams, marimba, string quartet, 1993

Family Scenes, flute, 3 saxophones, French horn, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, double bass/bass guitar, piano, 1995

When the Wind Blows, flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, flügelhorn, trombone, guitar, double bass/bass guitar, piano, 1996

Spiritus, 4 recorders, percussion, 1997

ForHanns, flute, clarinet, cello, piano, 1998

Trio, violin, cello, piano, 1998

Main Drag, any 9 players, 1999

Cradle Rock, flute, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, flügelhorn, trombone, guitar, double bass/bass guitar, piano, 1999

Pocket Symphony, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion, 2000

96 (canon), 5 players, 2003


Requiem, Part 1, speaker, male chorus, jaw harp, piano, organ/electronic simulation, tubular bells, bull-roarer, woodblock, radio, 1963–67

Struggle Song, mixed chorus, 1973 (version by Gregory Rose of vocal work)

Le Silence des Espaces Infinis (text by Blaise Pascal), children's chorus/female chorus, any player, orchestra in 7 groups, fixed media, 1980

Stop the War!, mixed chorus, 1995

Stop the Testing!, mixed chorus, 1995


Jefferson (text by Thomas Jefferson), voice, piano, 1970

Freud, voice, 1970

Coming Together, speaker, variable ensemble, 1971

Attica, speaker, variable ensemble, 1972

Struggle Song, voice, variable ensemble, 1973 (also version by Gregory Rose for mixed chorus)

The Price of Oil, 2 voices/2 choruses, 8 amplified ensembles of bagpipes, any 2 similar ensembles, 1980

Snacks, voice, mixed chorus ad libitum, any ensemble ad libitum, 1981

Antigone-Legend (text by Bertolt Brecht [translated by Judith Malina]), voice, piano, 1982

Songs, voice, piano, 1973–83

Mayakovsky, speaker, piano, string quartet, 1984

Mary's Dream, soprano, contrabass clarinet, cello, piano, percussion, 1984

Force, 2 speakers, any wind instrument/any 2 wind instruments, any plucked instrument/any 2 plucked instruments, noisemaker/2 noisemakers, weigher ad libitum, 1985

The Waves, speaker, variable ensemble, 1988

Tinkleberries (collection of ditties), voice, any number of players, 1980–90

The Burghers of Rostock, voice, piano, 1992

Snippets, speaker, piano, 1994

Logique (text by Paul Verlaine), voice, flute, cello, piano, 1997


Chain of Thought, 1953

Tabakrauch, 1954

Preludes, 1957

Poem, 1958

Introduction and Sonata, 2 pianos, 1959

Study 2 (Dreams), 1961

Falling Music, 1971 (also version for amplified piano, fixed media, 1971)

No Place to Go but around, 1974

36 Variations on 'The People United Will Never Be Defeated!', 1975

Four Pieces, 1977

Squares, 1978

North American Ballads, 1978–79 (its four sections may be performed separately: Dreadful Memories; Which Side are You on?; Down by the Riverside; Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues [also version for 2 pianos, 1980])

A Machine, 2 pianos, 1984

Eggs, 1986

Steptangle, 1986

The Turtle and the Crane, 1988

Mayn Yingele, 1988

Fantasy, 1989

Bumps, 1990

Ludes, 1990–91

Sonata, 1991

De Profundis, 1991–92

Andante con Moto, 1992

A Life, 1992

Night Crossing with Fisherman, 2 pianos, 1994

Fougues, 1994

Turns (The Road, Part 1), 1995

Tracks (The Road, Part 2), 1996

Tramps (The Road, Part 3), 1997

Stops (The Road, Part 4), 1998

A Few Knocks (The Road, Part 5), 1999

Travelling with Children (The Road, Part 6), 1999

Final Preparations (The Road, Part 7), 1999–2002

The Big Day Arrives (The Road, Part 8), 2002–03

Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier, 2003

Cadenza, 2003

Dust, 2003


The Housewife's Lament, 1980


Zoologischer Garten, fixed media, 1965


Chains (12 operas for TV), voice, 6 players, 1986

DISCOGRAPHY (as composer)

36 Variations on 'The People United Will Never Be Defeated!'. Ursula Oppens, piano (Vanguard Classics: 8056, 1993)

North American Ballads. Kathleen Supové, piano (Composers Recordings, Inc.: CRI 653, 1993)

Coming Together; Attica. Group 180 (Hungaroton: 12545, 1993)

36 Variations on 'The People United Will Never Be Defeated!'. Stephen Drury, piano (New Albion Records: NA 063, 1994)

Spots; Wails; The Lost Melody; Crusoe. Zeitgeist (OOdiscs: 15, 1995)

De Profundis; Four Pieces (excerpt); Sonata; Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues. Anthony de Mare, piano (OOdiscs: 16, 1995)

Moonrise with Memories. David Taylor, bass trombone; Louise Schulman/ensemble (New World Records: 80494-2, 1996)

To the Earth. Dame Evelyn Glennie, voice, percussion (BMG/RCA: 68195, 1996)

Jefferson; Antigone-Legend. Carol Plantamura, soprano; Frederic Rzewski, piano (Composers Recordings, Inc.: CRI 747, 1997)

Night Crossing with Fisherman; Ludes; Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues (version for 2 pianos). Ursula Oppens, piano; Frederic Rzewski, piano (Music & Arts: 988, 1997)

Turns (The Road, Part 1); Tracks (The Road, Part 2); Whangdoodles; To the Earth. Frederic Rzewski, piano; Abel–Steinberg–Winant Trio (Music & Arts: 1000, 1997)

Scratch Symphony. Michael Gielen/SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg (col legno: WWE 3CD 20026, 1999)

36 Variations on 'The People United Will Never Be Defeated!'; North American Ballads (excerpts). Marc-André Hamelin, piano (Hyperion Records: 67077, 1999)

Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues. Emanuele Arciuli, piano (Stradivarius: STR 33555, 2000)

Turns (The Road, Part 1) (excerpt). Marcel Worms, piano (NM Classics: 98014, 2000)

Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues. James Lent, piano (The Orchard: 8575, 2001)

Down by the Riverside. Lara Downes, piano (Postcards: 2002, 2001)

Coming Together. Frederic Rzewski, speaker; Talujon Percussion Quartet (Capstone Records: CPS-8681/88, 2001)

36 Variations on 'The People United Will Never Be Defeated!'; Turns (The Road, Part 1); Tracks (The Road, Part 2); Tramps (The Road, Part 3); Stops (The Road, Part 4); Fantasia; Sonata; Mayn Yingele; Fougues; A Life; North American Ballads; The Housewife's Lament; De Profundis. Frederic Rzewski, piano, harpsichord (Nonesuch Records: 79623-2, 2002)

North American Ballads. Lisa Moore, piano (Cantaloupe Music, 2003)

North American Ballads. David Jalbert, piano (Endeavour: END 1001, 2004)

36 Variations on 'The People United Will Never Be Defeated!'. Igor Levit, piano (Sony Classical: 88875 06096 2, 2016)

36 Variations on 'The People United Will Never Be Defeated!'. Yuji Takahashi, piano (ALM Records: ALCD-19)

36 Variations on 'The People United Will Never Be Defeated!'. Frederic Rzewski, piano (Hat Hut: ART 6066)

North American Ballads; Squares. Frederic Rzewski, piano (Hat Hut: ART 6089)

Sonata; De Profundis. Frederic Rzewski, piano (Hat Hut: ART 6134)

Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues. Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano (JLH: 1002)

Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues (version for 2 pianos). Quattro Mani (Klavier: 11106)

Mayn Yingele. Ursula Oppens, piano (Music & Arts: 4862)

Bumps; Andante con Moto; The Turtle and the Crane. Frederic Rzewski, piano (Newport Classic)

North American Ballads. Paul Jacobs, piano (Nonesuch Records)

Song and Dance. (Nonesuch Records)

Coming Together. (Opus One Music)

Four Pieces (no. 4). Lisa Moore, piano (Sony Classical)

Four Pieces. Frederic Rzewski, piano (Vanguard Classics)

The Turtle and the Crane. Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano (Welspringe Productions: WEL001)