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“A gifted, fast-rising artist.” —The New York Times

Benjamin Hochman, piano

KNUSSEN: Variations, Op. 24
BERIO: Cinque variazioni
MUSKAL: Frederic Variations (world premiere)

RZEWSKI: 36 Variations on “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!”

The concert is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.


  92Y Concerts at SubCulture is a co-presentation of 92Y and SubCulture.

This concert takes place in SubCulture, 45 Bleecker St.

  • 92YConcerts has posted a five-part interview with Benjamin Hochman on its Facebook page. Here is the finale, with links to the previous four segments.

Explore the Music

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Artist’s Note

by Benjamin Hochman

Tonight’s program consists of Variations— in idea and form. We’ll hear Variations for solo piano by four contemporary composers: Oliver Knussen, Luciano Berio, Tamar Muskal and Frederic Rzewski. The works are greatly contrasted in style, musical language, length and atmosphere, yet share a common interest in taking a simple idea and exploring its many possibilities and vast potential.

Oliver Knussen’s Variations, premiered by Peter Serkin at the 92nd Street Y in 1989, is a compact set of twelve short variations played without pause. Based on a group of notes presented at the outset, the variations that follow are vivid, full of character and color. Variously resembling character pieces, études and passacaglias, the individual variations combine to form a compelling arch from beginning to end.

Luciano Berio’s Cinque Variazioni, written in 1952 and extensively revised in 1963, is dedicated to the Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola. To me, this piece has a strong feeling of fantasy and improvisation throughout, with particular motifs (the interval of a ninth, a dotted rhythm) recurring in varied contexts. After a still, mysterious opening, the music becomes increasingly animated and intense, before a quiet, dissipated ending brings us full circle.

Tonight marks the world premiere of Tamar Muskal’s Frederic Variations. The theme for this set of variations is Frederic Chopin’s Étude No. 2 in A-flat major from Trois Nouvelles Etudes. “Frederic Variations” approaches the variation form freely, embracing a passionate, impulsive side of Chopin to create an original work. The pervasive chordal texture and harmonic skeleton of a short phrase taken from the Chopin Etude are the threads that tie together this imaginative and wide-ranging piece.

The composer and pianist Frederic Rzewski wrote The People United Will Never Be Defeated! as a companion work to Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. Ursula Oppens gave the premiere at the Kennedy Center in 1976. Since then it has become something of a cult hit, as well as a modern classic. The theme for this set of variations is the eponymous Chilean resistance song, composed by Sergio Ortega with a text by Quilapayún. It appears at the beginning and end of “The People United,” and is pervasive throughout; but quotations from the Italian socialist song “Bandiera Rossa” and Brecht- Eisler’s “Solidarity Song” become equally important as the piece unfolds. The 36 variations, arranged in six groups of six variations, show an exceptionally wide range of musical styles and pianistic techniques. Nearly an hour in length, this massive work takes both performer and listener on a powerful journey.

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Artist Bio

Benjamin Hochman, piano

Winner of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2011, pianist Benjamin Hochman made his successful New York recital debut in 2006 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has since established a vibrant musical presence in New York City through concerts with the New York Philharmonic and the American Symphony Orchestra, a Carnegie Hall debut with the Israel Philharmonic, and a succession of recital and chamber performances at 92nd Street Y. He made his debut with the Chicago Symphony in a Mozart Piano Concerto project with Pinchas Zukerman and the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut at the Hollywood Bowl.

Highlights of Mr. Hochman’s 2013/14 fall and winter season have included Mozart’s Piano Concerto in G major with the Riverside Symphony at Alice Tully Hall, Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the IRIS Orchestra in Memphis, and performances of both Brahms piano concertos: the Concerto No. 1 with the Wheeling Symphony, and the Concerto No. 2 with the Reading Symphony. In January he gave two recitals in Israel, and last month he returned to Chicago to perform one of the International Music Foundation’s Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts that was broadcast and streamed live on WFMT.

Also earlier this year, Mr. Hochman presented a version of his “Variations” program in Boston at the Longy School of Music and in Washington for his critically acclaimed recital debut at the Kennedy Center. Later this season he will appear with the National Arts Center Orchestra in Ottawa and at the Savannah Music Festival, and he will perform Brahms’s three sonatas for violin and piano with Jennifer Koh in Stamford, Connecticut.

In November 2013 Avie Records released Mr. Hochman’s second solo album, entitled Homage to Schubert, featuring Schubert’s Sonata in A major, D. 664, and Sonata in D major, D. 850 alongside two contemporary tributes to Schubert: Jörg Widmann’s Idyll und Abgrund: Six Schubert Reminiscences and Kurtág’s Homage to Schubert. Mr. Hochman’s debut solo recording of works by Bach, Berg and Webern was released by Artek in 2009. He recorded Insects and Paper Airplanes: The Chamber Music of Lawrence Dillon in 2010 for Bridge Records in collaboration with the Daedalus Quartet.

Born in Jerusalem, Benjamin Hochman began his studies at the Conservatory of the Rubin Academy in Jerusalem. He is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Mannes College of Music. He is currently on the piano faculty of Bard College and the Longy School of Music. His website is

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