ROCHBERG: Symphony No. 2 / Imago Mundi (Christopher Lyndon-Gee/ Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos American Classics: 8.559182)
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George Rochberg (1918-2005)
Symphony No. 2 (1955-56) Imago Mundi (1973)
George Rochberg was born in Paterson, New Jersey on 5thJuly, 1918, and died at Newtown Square, nearPhiladelphia, where he had lived for over forty years, on30th May, 2005. From 1951, he was Director ofPublications for the music publishing house TheodorePresser, in 1960 becoming Chairman of the MusicDepartment at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1979 hewas designated Annenberg Professor of the Humanities,retiring from the University in 1983. Rochberg's musichas been honoured since his earliest substantialcompositions, his Night Music receiving the GeorgeGershwin Memorial Award in 1953. Since then,Naumberg Recording Awards, Guggenheim Fellowships,Honorary Doctorates, a Fellowship at the AmericanAcademy in Rome, and Fulbright Scholarship in 1950-51(the year in which he met and befriended LuigiDallapiccola), the ASCAP Lifetime Achievement Awardin 2000, and countless other honours accumulated in evergreater profusion. In 1996, his manuscripts and paperswere acquired for the archives of the Paul SacherFoundation in Basel, Switzerland.
Although not completed until the spring of 1956,George Rochberg's Symphony No. 2 is unquestionably awartime work. Living in New York in 1941-42 with hisnew wife, Gene, making ends meet by playing at jazz barsand clubs while studying with Hans Weisse, LeopoldMannes and George Szell at the Mannes School of Music,Rochberg's student life and idyllic early years of marriagewere interrupted by call-up into the United States Army inNovember 1942. There followed three testing yearsserving as a captain with Allied forces in Europe. At theBattle of the Bulge, Rochberg was severely wounded,spending close on a year in recovery and rehabilitation. Asthe war ended, he was able to take up his studies again atthe Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where hehoned his skills in counterpoint under the great RosarioScalero, who had been a member of Brahms's circle inVienna sixty years earlier.
The hour-long First Symphony [to appear on Naxos8.559214], written in 1948-49, was the first large-scalework to result, an important stepping-stone on the way tothe Second. Exploring the power of the orchestral palettefor the first time, delineating his expressive boundaries andchallenges, establishing a powerfully individual personallanguage, still essentially \tonal" but ever more sharplypressing the harmonic limits of that language, the FirstSymphony is a young composer's assertive laying-down ofthe gauntlet.
All of the accumulated anger and anguish about theSecond World War was now freed, through the First'srefinement of a mature technique, to explode onto the pagein unfettered spontaneity, an immediacy of compositionalvision sharpened, if anything, by the four years spentpolishing the score of the Second in the intervals of otherwork.