this is a nice tribute to Rzewski,the "Hanns Eisler" of the USA,(even though he has lived in Europe most of his life)for imparting throughout his career the sense of the political in his work;and he has never flinched from offering a work consistent with the causes of the Left and the issues facing the populace unpretenciously;as he choral "Stop the War" and although he is known as an incredible solo pianist his compositions have an equal fascination for their thought,concept,timeliness, accesibility,musical technique and timbral dimensions;there are two of his primary works here written around the same time in the early Seventies."Coming Together"(January,1972)originally done with the Living Theater, still has a resonance, unfortunately since the prison population has only increased(doubled) since the riots at Attica State prison in New York State, (the Reagan Years saw this increase), and human rights within confinement has not improved either, The text from a letter by Sam Melville,(murdered at Attica)is a pen name actually,and is focused on the quality of humanity that is still desired,even though life itself is somewhat lost. It is a personal declamation on the state of a human being reduced to living where he or she is, confined. The text is recited straight as a piece of drama following the music.It can be done merely with the pianist reciting and playing simultaneously. The musical accompaniment is focused around running sixteenths modal patterns in g minor-ish, the ensemble, for any number can either follow this pattern or/and add improvisatory commentary to it,but mindful that it is an accompaniment.If done correctly the piece can mount to incredible power and resonance with pacing that foments the momentum forward. The minimalist (rhythmic patternings)language chosen by Rzewski is quite different than the other minimalists sought, to me anyway, bass cantus acts as a musical metaphor for the stasis of a human life,reduced to daily routine,boredom,servitude,depression; the music does not develop so much as simply "lives" its space; although Rzewski did utilize an elaborate numbering patterning for the change of tones, additives as the piece progresses through time.
"Les Moutons" quite apart in expressions has more of a playful,uplifting edge to it, again the work is based on a (mantra-ized)modal melody quite beautiful when played by itself, the performers enter much like Terry Riley's "In C" in dovetails, fugal,and the resulating determinate/interdeterminate harmonies are great to listen; but Rzewski advises in his introductory notes, "if you get lost, stay lost" much like a sheep that has gone astray from the fold.
The "pocket symphony" is also great piece revealing Rzewski's sense of interesting timbres as all his chamber music exhibits.