MADNESS was a program initially stemming from Michel van der Aa's multimedia piece, Transit, a demanding intermingling of piano, pre-recorded piano sounds, and video of an old man trapped in his own house, verging on insanity. From there, I discovered Rzewski's de profundis, which shows madness through the pianist's task of not only playing the notes prescribed, but reciting text from Oscar Wilde's "De Profundis" while also groaning, breathing high and low syllables, humming, whistling, compounded with choreography and the use of a bicycle horn. This was quickly becoming a fairly dark circus of a program, so I added the tragically beautiful and little known work, Canon in E mixolydian mode by Alexey Stanchinsky, and the spiritual and serene Ghost Variations composed by Robert Schumann while battling hallucinations.
Alexey Stanchinsky (1888-1914)
Canon in E mixolydian mode 5'
Michel van der Aa (b. 1970)
Transit, for piano and video (2007/2009) 12’
Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Theme and Variations in E-Flat Major, “Geistervariationen” WoO 24 11'
Frederic Rzewski (b. 1938)
de profundis (for speaking pianist) (1992) 32’
Total timing: 60 minutes, intermission optional
Requirements: projector, projector screen, speakers, microphone, grand piano
Themes: darkness, mental illness, loneliness, multimedia, narration
The Composer Frederic Rzewski: In His Notes, Protest and Politics (Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times)