Sierra Chamber Society Program Notes

George Rochberg (1918 - )

Recordanza (Soliloquy for Cello and Piano) (1972)


The word recordanza can translate as "remembrance." It describes both the nature of this work and the composer's own spiritual journey. George Rochberg studied at Mannes College and the Curtis Institute. From 1960 to 1983 he taught at the University of Pennsylvania where he retired as Emeritus Annenberg Professor of the Humanities. He also served as director of publications at Theodor Presser Music Publishers.


Rochberg’s musical language was derived from that of the Second Viennese School, Schoenberg’s dodecophany (compositions using the twelve tones of the chromatic scale) and the serialism of Anton Webern. Rochberg began to feel constrained by these procedures that had promised creative freedom. Schoenberg’s language became in Rochberg’s words "musical esperanto and artificial language incapable of expressing serenity, tranquility, grace, wit and energy." He also became interested in the works of Charles Ives and Gustav Mahler, both of whom used many layers and styles in their musical language. Personal tragedy also played a part in what this composer has called his "time of turning." (Rochberg’s son was killed in an auto accident.) All of these influences caused him to rediscover the great work of the Classical and Romantic masters. The rigid notion of progress is abandoned and classical forms reappear, often literally quoted in his music. This is not unlike the simultaneous movement in architecture called Post-Modernism, where elements of the past are combined in new and different ways with the language of Modernism. Rochberg’s music, which caused a stir in the academic avant-garde of the 1960’s, was dubbed Neo-Romanticism. It was Schoenberg himself who said: "Romaticism is dead. Long live the New Romanticism."


And so in Recordanza, Rochberg is recollecting a musical past. Just as a memory is not a mere facsimile but is colored and given new form by the act of remembrance, becoming in fact a new creation, Rochberg lovingly remembers Beethoven’s recollection of his own reverie (the Andante) which returns at the end of the cello sonata’s slow second movement.


Over the past two decades Rochberg has written music which has been enthusiastically received by performers and audiences alike. His music is thoughtful and challenging, yet accessible. He has shown that contemporary music need not be like a foul-tasting medicine administered to an audience for its own good, or that challenging a listener can be something other than beating them into submission.

1992-93 Season,Program III, Sunday December 13, 1992

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