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Symphony No. 5


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Product Details

  • Composer: Rochberg
  • Audio CD (July 15 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nam
  • ASIN: B00009L4W5
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #130,740 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Symphony No.5
2. Black Sounds
3. I. Adagio Sereno; Molto Espressivo E Tranquillo
4. II. Andante Con Moto
5. III. Poco Adagio
6. IV. Poco Allegretto; Grazioso E Leggiero; Amoroso
7. V. Andantino Grazioso; Sempre Leggiero
8. VI. Moving Gently
9. VII. Molto Adagio E Tranquillo; Sereno

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman on Aug. 13 2003
Format: Audio CD
This is an outstanding CD. It consists of three orchestral works by the contemporary American composer, George Rochberg (b. 1916), including world premiere recordings of his Symphony No. 5 and his Transcendental Variations. The Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christopher Lyndon-Gee offer impassioned, convincing performances. Lyndon-Gee's liner notes for the CD are insightful and informative. The CD comes at a budget price as part of the Naxos "American Classics" series.
But the overriding reason to hear this CD is Rochberg's music. During a long compositional career, Rochberg has used many styles ranging from atonality to traditional diatonic music. This disc has examples of several different combinations of tonal and atonal music. For all their stylistic differences, the music on this CD has a passionate, visceral appeal, combined with a discipline and tautness resulting from attention to musical form. Lyndon-Gee's liner notes aptly use the term "hard romanticism" to describe this music.
The highlight of this CD is Rochberg's infrequently heard Symphony No. 5 (1984-1985) which is here recorded for the first time. This is a symphony of about 28 minutes which consists of a single movement. The symphony divides into 7 separate sections which Rochberg weaves together without pause. Sections of passionate, tumultuous, dissonant music alternate with three plaintive, reflective episodes. There is a hypnotic use of repetition and variation of simple musical phrases in this symphony. The work opens with a falling two-note figure which is repeated over and over again with increasing intensity to a chorus of brass. The symphony's orchestration is stunning. The work features effective use of solos, particularly for brass, for oboe and flute and for violin and cello.
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Format: Audio CD
What a joy and relief it is finally to have a recording of Rochberg's "Transcendental Variations"! I first heard this piece as played in 1992, when the Pennsylvania Ballet used it as the score for a short pas de deux titled "Face to Face." Since then, I have searched and longed for a recording, once even contacting Mr. Rochberg himself. (He is wonderfully friendly and helpful.)
What higher praise can I give this exquisite piece of music than to say that its opening Variation has stayed in my head since I first heard it twelve years ago? Listening to this crystalline recording for the first time, I experienced the same rapture - and it must be said, the same overwhelming heartbreak (for it is a mournful piece) - one feels upon seeing a long-lost love. Naxos, you have my sincerest thanks!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Introduction to George Rochberg's Music!!!!!!!! Aug. 26 2003
By Darin Tysdal - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
George Rochberg must be mighty happy with Naxos, with two major releases of his music, and two recordings of the same piece (Black Sounds)! They are also well recorded and performed. When I first heard the 5th symphony I thought, "This reminds me a lot of the Tippett 4th Symphony (my favorite contemporary symphonic work). There are some similarities. Both were composed for the Chicago Symphony and Sir Georg Solti and both feature large orchestras, especially the brass. Both are in one movement subdivided into subsections with recaps of earlier material. Wheras the Tippett ends softly, the Rochberg 5th ends loudly. There is lots of Mahler in this work, and lots of emotion and heart. There is also melody. In my opinion, Rochberg isn't writing especially listener-friendly music, he is just writing as he feels. As in the Tippett, dissonance means strife and conflict, and tonality means the resolution of that strife. In his well-written notes for this recording, Christopher Lyndon-Gee tells how smitten with this work he became when he heard this work in rehearsal (he was up for the assistant conducting job for the CSO.)Black Sounds is the work that is duplicated between the two discs. This is affected by Varese, and is a work for winds and percussion which is in his "older", more dissonant style. It is brilliantly performed here. The Trancendental Variaions come as a complete shock. This is an arrangement of a movement of his 3rd String Quartet, and it is one that got Rochberg in hot water with his contemporaries for being "too tonal" or "too melodic". Now that we are used to works like the Gorecki 3rd Symphony, music like this takes on a special meaning. The only other comparison I can make is with Schoenberg's Verklarte Nacht. This work is truly a tonic for a troubled world, and it deserves all of the airplay and performances it can muster. Thanks to these Naxos recordings, George Rochberg is again proven as a potent force in American music today.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Rochberg's Taut Passion Aug. 13 2003
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This is an outstanding CD. It consists of three orchestral works by the contemporary American composer, George Rochberg (b. 1916), including world premiere recordings of his Symphony No. 5 and his Transcendental Variations. The Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christopher Lyndon-Gee offer impassioned, convincing performances. Lyndon-Gee's liner notes for the CD are insightful and informative. The CD comes at a budget price as part of the Naxos "American Classics" series.
But the overriding reason to hear this CD is Rochberg's music. During a long compositional career, Rochberg has used many styles ranging from atonality to traditional diatonic music. This disc has examples of several different combinations of tonal and atonal music. For all their stylistic differences, the music on this CD has a passionate, visceral appeal, combined with a discipline and tautness resulting from attention to musical form. Lyndon-Gee's liner notes aptly use the term "hard romanticism" to describe this music.
The highlight of this CD is Rochberg's infrequently heard Symphony No. 5 (1984-1985) which is here recorded for the first time. This is a symphony of about 28 minutes which consists of a single movement. The symphony divides into 7 separate sections which Rochberg weaves together without pause. Sections of passionate, tumultuous, dissonant music alternate with three plaintive, reflective episodes. There is a hypnotic use of repetition and variation of simple musical phrases in this symphony. The work opens with a falling two-note figure which is repeated over and over again with increasing intensity to a chorus of brass. The symphony's orchestration is stunning. The work features effective use of solos, particularly for brass, for oboe and flute and for violin and cello. Percussion is used with great effect particularly in the development sections. There is an intriguing section with bells gonging behind solos for flute and oboe. The music is highly dramatic, and comes to full stops at several critical moments. The concluding, climactic section of the work features repetition of a swirling figure in the strings surrounded by brass. There is a rising cresendo in a string tremelo, which brings the work to a sudden dramatic end.
The second work on the CD, "Black Sounds" (1965) also appears on a Naxos disc of Rochberg's music featuring the Boston Modern Orchestra Project conducted by Gil Rose. This work was written for the performance of a ballet on public television titled "The Act" which is about a murder. The music is ominous with march-like figures in a blaring brass choir to the incessant beating of the tympani. This is intense music with a feeling of the bizarre and a real sense of disorientation. The work progresses to a slow desolate section with the winds seemingly talking back and forth to one another. Then there is a return to beating tympani, squacking winds, and curdling brass as, apparently, the evil deed is done, concluding with a quiet fade-away. To me, the performance of the work on this CD shows greater intensity than does the performance by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. But both performances are excellent and the music bears the two separate performances.
The final work on the CD, Rochberg's "Transcendental Variations" (1975), derives, Lyndon-Gee tells us, from Rochberg's Third String Quartet (1971-1972). This is a work for string orchestra alone and it is in seven short movements. Unlike the other two works on the CD, this music is tonal and character. Lyndon-Gee describes this music as "ecstatic". The work is slow and reflective in character with long flowing lines in the strings. The orchestration varies from sections in which the high and low strings alternate with each other to sections in which they play in unison. The music has a tranquil, elevated character. Portions of it sound almost baroque -- a contemporary, highly sophisticated 20th century Pachbel's Canon. The second and fifth movements of this music consists of gracious, bittersweet dancelike themes, which extend with great delicacy even though each of the movements is only about two minutes in length. This music is indeed mystical, transcendental, and moving.
Altogether this is a first-rate CD.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
On the Transcendental Variations April 1 2004
By tug-3 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
What a joy and relief it is finally to have a recording of Rochberg's "Transcendental Variations"! I first heard this piece as played in 1992, when the Pennsylvania Ballet used it as the score for a short pas de deux titled "Face to Face." Since then, I have searched and longed for a recording, once even contacting Mr. Rochberg himself. (He is wonderfully friendly and helpful.)
What higher praise can I give this exquisite piece of music than to say that its opening Variation has stayed in my head since I first heard it twelve years ago? Listening to this crystalline recording for the first time, I experienced the same rapture - and it must be said, the same overwhelming heartbreak (for it is a mournful piece) - one feels upon seeing a long-lost love. Naxos, you have my sincerest thanks!
24 of 33 people found the following review helpful
A musical Walter Mitty Dec 19 2004
By Victor A. Grauer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I've reserved judgement on George Rochberg for many years. But after listening to his 5th Symphony a few times on this CD (the performance, by the way,is remarkably good, as far as I can tell without a score), I've made up my mind. The guy is basically a musical Walter Mitty. Or Snoopy. "Here's the great, ultra Romantic tormented genius, grappling with the major issues of life, death, transfiguration and like that, just hear how beautifully he can suffer -- and with the best of them." The trouble is, it's not Rochberg who is doing the grappling OR the suffering, it's some image he has in his mind of how Beethoven, Mahler, Schoenberg, etc. must have done it. And he wants to think he can do it too. What's remarkable about THIS Walter Mitty is that he almost CAN. The limited interest this CD has for me is in the almost purely technical fascination I get from hearing how convincing he can be, for a while, when he pulls out all those Mahler/Schoenberg stops (there's a dollop of VERY self-conscious Wagner in there too). He certainly has a very deep grasp of the complex language of late and post Romanticism, no question. But then I hear something simply lifted from some Mahler symphony (the 3rd I think), and later a passage that sounds a LOT like the 5 Pieces for Orchestra, or Erwartung, and then there's that really awful "lyrical" passage based on one of Wagner's favorite melodic moves and I am overwhelmed by the chutzpah of this guy and the utter banality and pretentiousness of his project.

Another very revealing piece on this CD is "Black Sounds." To me this may be a key to understanding Rochberg because it is beginning to look very much as though his real gift is simply: mimicry. "Black Sounds" is a true embarrassment because its composer makes no pretense at all to any sort of originality but simply concocts, from bits and pieces of Varese (of all people), a kind of "essential" Varese piece. If I'd come across it on the radio without knowing who wrote it, it would have driven me crazy, because it is "definitely" by Varese. And yet it isn't actually any of the pieces he wrote. A kind of musical joke, I suppose. But I have the feeling Rochberg wants to be taken seriously.

Sorry, I know he has many admirers, but for me Rochberg, despite his very apparent talent and even mastery, falls far short of the goal he's set for himself.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Impressive playing, but I am less sure about the music Dec 21 2008
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
George Rochberg is a peculiar figure. In the 60s he turned his back on serialism (at least in its strict form) - not, perhaps, that uncommon, but instead of turning towards minimalism, neo-romanticism or conservative neo-classicism, he turned completely back to the roots. The result is often an eclectic mix of styles (but far away from the polystylism of, say, Schnittke), but in some works - notably the Transcendental Variations - the music could just as well have been written by a (minor) late-romantic European working in a style reminiscent of Richard Strauss; the Metamorphosen in particular spring to mind (it is a reworking of the central movement of Rochberg's third string quartet) - but I am frankly uncertain that it really aspires to or achieve very much.

The other two works are more modern, although not really much more interesting. The fifth symphony draws on a dizzying variety of sources, notably Mahler and Shostakovich. It's an overtly emotional mix of dissonance and more consonant parts. Unfortunately, it is hard to deny that overt emotion in this case lapses into pure sentimentalism. The work is strangely unsatisfying and inconsequential in the same way Penderecki's 2nd symphony is. Perhaps Black Sounds is able to hold its own somewhat better. A homage to Varése, this piece for 12 winds and brass is violent and forceful, and I'd say pretty worthwhile.

No objections to Lyndon-Gee and the Saarbrücken orchestra - they are first-rate, and the sound is splendid as well. Yet, I cannot shake the feeling that this music, despite Rochberg's obvious importance, is less than the sum of its part. So if you want to check him out (and I am by no means trying to keep you from doing so), this is possibly the best place to start. But don't expect any masterpieces.


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