CD Review



Piano Variations
Thomas Schultz, piano Wooden Fish Recordings, $25.00 (two CDs) .

"The People United Will Never Be Defeated," Frederic Rzewski's mammoth, bravura set of piano variations on the Chilean leftist anthem, was written as a companion piece for Beethoven's "Diabelli Variations," and the connections between the two knotty, hard-driving works are easy to hear. On his intriguing new self-produced CD, though, San Francisco pianist Thomas Schultz has gone a different route, pairing Rzewski's masterpiece with an earlier and rather different keyboard compendium, Bach's "Goldberg Variations."

The resulting juxtaposition is fascinating, if ultimately not entirely persuasive. Certainly the performance of "The People United" is a keeper -- Schultz is a longtime advocate of Rzewski's piano music, and his performance combines grace, improvisatory gusto and vigorous physical energy in splendid measure.

The Bach, meanwhile, works better as a counterpoint to the Rzewski than on its own. Schultz's playing is lovely and carefully attentive to the rhythmic profiles of Bach's music, but there is an aggressiveness to some of the textures that seems calibrated with Rzewski in mind.

This review is from The San Francisco Chronicle, April 6, 2003
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