“Peter, I am planning on making a lot less noise in the world … it’s your turn now.” Telephone conversation with PSS June 2005
Five years on, and I think of that conversation every day. George believed that Music was a sacred trust, a flaming torch to be passed from generation to generation. And his music itself burns; these are fire-brand scores, which threaten, for the player, to morph from burning links to red-hot iron bars carried in the hand. Music was/is, for George, a ‘trial by fire’; in the heat of performance, base metals can be molten away, and molten gold be revealed.
When the 3rd Quartet was revealed to the world, by the sublime Concord Quartet, at the beginning of the 1970’s, it was greeted with acclaim and disgust in equal measure. Rochberg’s great friend George Crumb, had just unveiled his ‘global’ response to the milieu of the end of the 60’s- Black Angels. Rochberg’s response was, just as much as Crumb’s, a complete musical world-through which the voices of the previous torch bearers could be heard, still singing- Beethoven, Pachelbel, Mahler, Brahms, Bartok, Schoenberg, and the natural world-this quartet begins and ands with a storm of bird song. George wrote to me that he believed in:
“erasing all walls and borders based on historicity and aesthetic purities and declaring an all-at-once world within which all that matters once again is craftsmanship of the ancient kind, taste of the kind Mozart, and Haydn possessed, judgement of the kind Bach and Beeth. [sic] and Brahms and Bartok applied to every major decision they made; ‘s far as I’m concerned it’s back to basics , nothing to hide behind, not even so called ‘talent’.” Letter to PSS, April 3rd 2001
We did not come to learn the Quartet until thirty years after it was written. George made his last trip across the Atlantic-and he sang. George is still singing, like the birds, like Bach, Beethoven, Bartok. It’s just our job to play, and to listen. More: http://www.peter-sheppard-skaerved.com/composers/george-rochberg/workshop-on-rochberg-sonata/ http://www.peter-sheppard-skaerved.com/listen/rochberg-sonata/