Skip to page content

Frederic Rzewski


About this Artist

Rzewski’s early mentors and colleagues present a highly distinguished cross-section of 20th-century music. A Massachusetts native himself, he studied at Harvard with Randall Thompson and Walter Piston, followed by graduate work at Princeton with Roger Sessions and Milton Babbitt. He also studied with Luigi Dallapiccola in Italy and Elliott Carter in Berlin, and became friends with Christian Wolff, John Cage, and David Tudor. He taught composition himself, on the faculty of the conservatory in Liège, Belgium; he has also taught at other institutions in Europe and the U.S., including CalArts and UCSD.

Although he did not consider music seriously as a career until college, Rzewski did study piano from early youth and is a brilliant performer. (“…a granitically overpowering piano technician, capable of depositing huge boulders of sonoristic material across the keyboard without wrecking the instrument,” in Nicolas Slonimsky’s characteristically evocative description.) In Italy in the 1960s, he formed Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV) with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum, and the group became well-known for pioneering work in live electronics and improvisation. He continues to perform and was the soloist in the world premiere of his Piano Concerto at the BBC Proms in 2013, with Ilan Volkov conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.