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Rochberg’s Revolution – String Quartet’s Nos. 3 – 6

La liberté guidant le peuple

Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix

Where do revolutions come from?

The simplest answer is that they are given birth when a courageous few challenge the status quo because they feel the current state of affairs just isn’t cutting it. But in order for a new regime to “stick”, the populous has to agree with the evidence that they are being cheated by the very thing they should be able to trust.

Following the death of his young son Paul in 1964, George Rochberg found himself unable to trust the art upon which he had built his career. His serial music which was championed and performed around the world, and for which he received many awards, Rochberg now found meaningless. It was “unable to bear the weight of his sorrow.” And how could it? Serialism by design, adhering strictly to mechanistic devices, strips the individuality from the composer so there is no possibility that music of a purely cerebral quality could be capable of “expressing either the depth of his despair or the hope of his vision.”

Following on the heels of yesterday’s post we appropriately spotlight the “Concord Quartets” (string quartets Nos. 3 – 6) by George Rochberg. Refinersfire composer Michael Linton had the pleasure of writing the liner notes for the recording on New World Records which feature the Concord Quartet – for whom they were written and named. Here he eloquently describes how, by rejecting serialism, these 4 masterpieces, written between 1971 and 1978, are the “manifesto of a revolt” against the “whole philosophical foundation of the postwar avant-garde”.

I highly encourage you to download or pick up this important recording. You can read the liner notes here as well if you prefer, and/or read the article on “Rochberg’s Revolution” that Linton wrote for the online periodical First Things from where I borrow the above citations.

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