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American Classics - Rochberg: Symphony No 5, Etc /Lyndon-gee

Release Date: 07/15/2003 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559115   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Rochberg
Conductor:  Christopher Lyndon-Gee
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The notes to this recording make much of George Rochberg's braveness in the early 1960s in turning his back on strict academic serialism and atonality. Instead he dared to evolve a more nuanced, eclectic, personal style of expression in which tonal and atonal elements rub shoulders in a way that often comes across as sounding simply Romantic, in the best sense of the term. Without diminishing that achievement, in this less doctrinaire time the more important question is simple: How good is the music? We've been unable to answer this question because, aside from his string quartets, very few recordings have given us the chance to judge for ourselves. So this Naxos release is extremely important in
Read more that for many record collectors it will represent a first encounter with this seminal figure in 20th century American music--and it's magnificent.

The Fifth Symphony contains elements that many will find familiar: clear references to the finale of Mahler's Ninth and the Largo of Shostakovich's Fifth, aggressively virtuosic brass writing (it was a Chicago Symphony commission), a compelling mixture of dissonance and consonance, and an overtly emotional program apposing music of aggression with passages of sadness and consolation. It's all organized in a single movement whose multiple sections offer a gripping but easy-to-follow pattern of tension and release. To call the work a masterpiece doesn't begin to suggest its immediacy and impact: the symphony simply "goes" with the inevitability of fate itself, and its 28 minutes seem to pass by in a flash. Christopher Lyndon-Gee and the Saarbrücken orchestra give the music all of the intensity and passion that it needs, and they're marvelously well recorded too.

Black Sounds dates from 1965, and as the title suggests it's a darker, more abrasive work than the symphony. Inspired by the death of the composer's friend Edgard Varèse, the music pays respectful homage without ever descending to mere imitation. In particular, the scoring for 12 winds and brass, piano, celesta, and four percussionists clearly brings Varèse to mind, as does the music's violence and boundless energy. Standing at the opposite end of the harmonic spectrum, the gorgeously tonal Transcendental Variations for string orchestra consists of a reworking of the central movement of Rochberg's Third String Quartet, the breakthrough work in his mature style. Like the symphony, both works receive committed and compelling performances from Lyndon-Gee and his German forces.

Naxos has done some yeoman work in its American Classics series, but it's hard not to acclaim this release as one of the most important yet, not just for the excellence of its performances, the fine sonics, or even the marvelous music itself, but also in the human sense of doing some justice at last to a courageous composer whose importance is generally acknowledged but far too seldom confirmed by actual performance of his music. If this disc leads to further interest in Rochberg, then it will have achieved a greater purpose beyond gratifying a limited number of modern music enthusiasts. In the meantime, by all means, buy this and be gratified! [8/2/2003]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Symphony no 5 by George Rochberg
Conductor:  Christopher Lyndon-Gee
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1984-1985; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/2002 
Venue:  Halberg Broadcasting House, Germany 
Length: 28 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Notes: This work was nominated for the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Classical
Contemporary Composition. 
Black Sounds by George Rochberg
Conductor:  Christopher Lyndon-Gee
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1965; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/22/2000 
Venue:  Halberg Broadcasting House, Germany 
Length: 14 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Transcendental Variations by George Rochberg
Conductor:  Christopher Lyndon-Gee
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1975; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/2002 
Venue:  Halberg Broadcasting House, Germany 
Length: 17 Minutes 46 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Symphony No. 5
Black Sounds
Transcendental Variations: I. Adagio sereno; molto espressivo e tranquillo
Transcendental Variations: II. Andante con moto
Transcendental Variations: III. Poco adagio
Transcendental Variations: IV. Poco allegretto; grazioso e leggiero; amoroso
Transcendental Variations: V. Andantino grazioso; sempre leggiero
Transcendental Variations: VI. Moving gently
Transcendental Variations: VII. Molto adagio e tranquillo; sereno

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