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Side One 






| first heard George Rochberg’s PIANO QUINTET in March, 1976 
at the annual New Music Festival of Memphis State University in 
Memphis, Tennessee. The audience reaction to the work at that per- 
formance was a study in evolving emotions: pleasant surprise; uncon- 
cealed delight; and ultimately, irrepressible enthusiasm, expressed at 
the conclusion of the third movement by a spontaneous outburst of 
applause. The reason for such an exuberant response is the reason 
behind Rochberg’s increasing success: his willingness to listen to and 
trust the musical instincts of his audiences without compromising his 
own artistic integrity. He speaks to his listeners directly and sincerely, 
and his voice rarely fails to touch them. 

Aesthetically, the quintet, which was completed in December, 

1975, stands in a direct line with the Third String Quartet (1972) and 
the three “Concord” Quartets (1977-78). Rochberg contends that the 
spiritual principles inherent in the works of the “old masters” have 
been absent in the new music for much too long—the past has now 
returned not merely to haunt us, but to reclaim us. In the quintet, as in 
other recent compositions, Rochberg has strived to reconcile di- 
ametric forces, has attempted to fuse the past and the present, the 
“tonal” and the”atonal/’ the conventional and the unconventional into 
a unified whole which is distinctly individual and personal. Much has 
been written about Rochberg’s compositional aesthetic, particularly 
concerning his desire to re-embrace the major-minor tonal system. 
Regardless of one’s position on the issue, it cannot be denied that 
George Rochberg has had a profound effect on the direction of new 
music during the past decade— perhaps more so than any single com- 
poser. Through the steadfastness of his convictions and the persuasive 
eloquence of both his writings and his music, he has compelled all of 
us—composers, performers, critics —to re-evaluate our views of the 



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contemporary musical world. : 

The PIANO QUINTET & comprisedgt seven movements and exhibits 
a symmetrical design in its construction. Movement VIi (Epilogue) re- 
casts the material presented in the first movement (Introduction): 
rapidly-arpeggiated chords, erupting obtrusively from the piano and 
reinforced by the string quartet, contrast with more delicate and 
plaintive melodic gestures. Both movements are clearly atonal and 
are free and “unconventional” in form. 

- Tonal and atonal elements are intermixed in Movements Il and VI. 

The quasi-tonal piano sequence which dramatically opens the second 
movement plunges cheerfully forward with pell-mell abandon, occa- 
sionally interrupted —and ultimately halted—by an expressive atonal 
theme imbued with a sense of poignancy. The initial piano statement 
subsequently metamorphoses into a third, but obviously derivative 
subject. The movement is entitled“ Fantasia,’ and its improvisatory 
character is apparent throughout. Movement VI shares strong and 
often literal thematic connections with the Fantasia and recalls as well 
the earlier movement's good-humored complexion. The relationship 
between the two movements is further established formally: although 
the shape of Movement VI bears a close resemblance to sonata-form 
(yet not in a purely classical sense), brief, subdued moments of “fan- 
tasy,” which serve to disrupt the well-defined periodic structure, are 
inserted into the design. 

Movements III and V are the most “conventional” in their tonal 
and formal organization. Movement III is a fugue in D Major inter- 
rupted by a scherzo in E-flat Major. Movement V is a set of variations 
on a seven-bar theme centered firmly in A-flat Major. The thematic 
bond between the movements is effected by the use of a fragment from 
the fugue subject as the basis of a short transitional passage in Move- 



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Side Two 






ment V. While the third movement is the most light-hearted and frolic- 
some of the seven movements, the fifth is the most serene and beautiful 
in its melodic and harmonic simplicity. It is important to emphasize the 
sharp emotional contrasts evident within or between each movement 
of the piece. In his program notes for the work’s first performance, Mr. 
Rochberg wrote the following: 

“The plan for the quintet develops as an overall emotional 
scenario in which movements are either tonal, atonal, or 
mixed, depending on what | wanted to say in a progression 
from dark to light, to dark again—mournful, troubled, and 
haunted states alternate with serene and exuberant ones.” 

Movement IV is a strangely dramatic piano solo standing at the 
center of the entire work. Its lines reveal a tenuous intervallic relation- 
ship with the atonal second subject of the Fantasia, but the similiarity 
ends there. The general dynamic is pppp, and the performer is 
instructed to evoke a” misty, dark, murky atmosphere.’ Created, then, 
isa ghostly, dreamlike movement which balances wonderfully with the 
transparent ensemble sections lying on either side of it. 

As a result of the formal symmetry, the seven movements can be 
viewed ona larger scale as falling into three parts: 

Part A: |. Introduction; Il. Fantasia; Ill. Fugue-Scherzo 

Part B: IV. Sfumato 

Part C: V. Little Variations; VI. Molto allegro con spirito 

VII. Epilogue 

The PIANO QUINTET was written expressly for the Concord 
String Quartet and the pianist Jerome Lowenthal, who gave the work 
its first performance at Alice Tully Hall in New York City on March 15, 

1976. Claude Baker 

Recorded September and October, 1980, Rutgers Presbyterian Church, New York. Nonesuch would like to express its appreciation to the Rector and staff for their assistance and cooperation. 
This recording was made under the supervision of the composer, who gratefully acknowledges assistance from the National Endowment for the Arts. 
Production and Musical Supervision: Marc J. Aubort and Joanna Nickrenz * Engineering: Elite Recordings, Inc. * Piano: Steinway CD-23 * Mastered by Terry Dunavan, Elektra Sound Recorders 
Art Direction: Ron Coro & Kathy Morphesis * Design & Illustration: Kathy Morphesis * Coordinator: Keith Holzman 


Other recordings by the Concord String Quartet on Nonesuch: ROCHBERG: String Quartet No. 3 (H-71283) © IVES: String Quartets Nos. ] and 2 (H-71306) 

®) and © 1981 Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch Records, 962 North La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90069, 665 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10022. A Division of Warner Communications Inc. @ Printed in U.S.A. 

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