For his debut solo album, rising Los Angeles-based pianist Thomas Kotcheff has taken on a formidable challenge: the premiere recording of American composer Frederic Rzewski’s virtuosic (and timely) Songs of Insurrection, based on protest songs from seven countries around the world.
The disc, produced by Aaron Holloway-Nahum, comes out Friday, November 13, 2020, on the Coviello Contemporary label.
That evening, Kotcheff will perform a free online concert with three movements of Songs of Insurrection, an except from Rzewski’s Four Hands with the piano duo HOCKET and a newly commissioned work by composer Jordan Nelson. The free online concert will stream 5 p.m. Pacific Time / 8 p.m. Eastern Time at thomaskotcheff.com/livestream.
Kotcheff describes Songs of Insurrection as “fiendishly difficult to play.” The seven-part work lasts 75 minutes, with optional episodes of improvisation. It took Kotcheff more than a year to learn Songs of Insurrection. He earned San Francisco Classical Voice’s Audience Choice Award for his rendition.
At 31, Kotcheff has been immersed in Rzewski’s music for more than a decade, with several of the composer’s progressive-minded works in his repertoire. As an award-winning composer in his own right, Thomas Kotcheff feels a particular affinity for Frederic Rzewski as a fellow composer-pianist with a special understanding of the instrument.
Songs of Insurrection comes with liner note essays by three writers: Zak Cheney-Rice, who covers race and politics for New York magazine; composer Ted Hearne, known for works that engage with vital social issues; and Kristi Brown-Montesano, Chair of the music history faculty at the Colburn School Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, where Kotcheff teaches piano and music theory. Underscoring the album’s theme, the artwork consists of images taken by Black photographers J Pinder, Chaz Niell, and Julien James at recent Black Lives Matter protests.
Thomas Kotcheff (b. 1988) is a Los Angeles based composer and pianist. His compositions have been performed internationally by The Riot Ensemble, New York Youth Symphony, Wild Up, Sandbox Percussion, Trio Appassionata, Argus Quartet, Lyris Quartet, Alinde Quartett, USC Thornton Edge, The Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, HOCKET, Peabody Percussion Group, Latitude 49, and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble among others.