Symphony No. 5

George Rochberg

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

My 5th Symphony is an intense, passionate work of an emotional scale which I hope wholly befits the city, the occasion, the conductor, and the orchestra for which it was written. It was John Edwards, long-time executive director and manager of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who originally approached me with the idea of writing such a work and I am truly sorry he is not here any longer to share these first performances with me and his colleagues.

The character of this work is mainly chromatic with virtually no overt references to the tonal palette which most people have come to associate with my music. Its form, which derives from its general content, is unique for me, not so much because it is cast in seven sections comprising one large-scale, uninterrupted movement, but because I have tried to mix formal procedures with imagistic ones in a process of organic growth stemming from a core.

The sections take the following order:
1. Opening Statement: Allegro con intensita
2. Episode 1: Meno mosso; un poco sostenuto ma ancora movendo
3. Development 1: Poco andante con molto calore
4. Episode 2: Molto adagio; recitando; liberamente
5. Development 2: Allegro
6. Episode 3: Adagio sereno
7. Finale: Allegro con intensita

One has to imagine a kind of constantly evolving and spiralling funnel, starting from the opening statement ? the core of the work ? which, as it spirals upward and outward in increasingly widening turns with each new section, gathers up ideas and materials already stated until at the finale everything which has been previously expressed is brought together and unified.

Organic growth as such ? where everything is related to everything else ? has always fascinated me, both in nature and in art, and still constitutes for me the great challenge in writing music. While organic growth itself would seem to suggest a kind of monolithic process of sameness, it is more difficult, I believe, to achieve when seemingly different characters and qualities are brought together ? and this is the route I have taken.

The listener should, therefore, not be surprised at the sudden differences which emerge in the three episodes, which I think of as imagistic rather than formal. The first episode is the most dramatically explosive of the three, the second centers on the horns of the orchestra which are constantly ?calling? to each other, perhaps evoking a sense of distance and even longing, while the third is the most tranquil and coloristic. Perhaps the sectional aspect of the structure of the work and the individual nature of the various sections suggest an anti-traditional approach to large-scale form, but it is in the more formal development sections and the Finale where I have attempted to reconcile what I like most about tradition with a more personal attitude.

The work was sketched in the spring and summer of 1984 and the orchestration completed November 28, 1984.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned for the sesquicentennial celebration of the city of Chicago.
Composition Date 1984
Duration 00:25:00
Orchestration 4 2 1 3 - 4 4 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str.
Premiere 13th March, 1986. Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir George Solti.

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