Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Dr. Bob Prescribes: George Rochberg, String Quartet No. 3

George Rochberg
George Rochberg (1918-2005)

George Rochberg, the subject of yesterday’s Music History Monday post, is most famous for his string quartets, seven in number. We turn to his String Quartet No. 3 of 1972, a work Rochberg explains:

“is the first major work to emerge from what I have come to think of as ‘the time of turning’”.

As discussed in yesterday’s Music History Monday post, in 1961, Rochberg and his family suffered a terrible tragedy: his 17-year-old son Paul was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Paul Rochberg died three years later, in 1964. To his shock and horror, a grieving George Rochberg discovered that the musical language of modernism – his musical language – was completely inadequate to the expressive task of allowing him to say what he needed to say.

Rochberg confesses:

“By the beginning of the 1960s, I had become completely dissatisfied with [serialism’s] inherently narrow terms. The over-intense [expressive] manner of serialism and its tendency to inhibit physical pulse and rhythm led me to question a style which made it virtually impossible to express serenity, tranquility, grace, wit, energy. It became necessary to move on.”

Finally, in 1972, the “new” George Rochberg emerged from the compositional closet. His “coming out piece” was a string quartet: his third.… continue reading, only on Patreon!

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