Octet-A Grand Fantasia

George Rochberg

Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

This work was written between November 23, 1979 and January 12, 1980, on commission from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. It is dedicated to my dear friends Edith and Paul Mocsanyi.

I call it ?a grand fantasia? to identify its character which is essentially a continuous series of unfolding, connecting gestures whose coherence derives more form the use and transformation of a basic set of motives ? melodic, harmonic and textural ? than from the formal design of exterior structure. It is the last in a long series of varied chamber works which have occupied me over the last decade, works in which I explored the possibilities of a larger palette of expressive means than allowed by modernism per se.

Music is much more than a product of sheer rationality and intellect ? that side of ourselves on which modernism has placed such a high premium. Nor is music a descent into inchoate subjectivity, reflecting in mirror fashion ? as some would have it ? the turbulent conditions of our times. Music is a direct utterance of the human soul, the release of the human heart in sound in as many of its forms of sensibility as we are capable of imagining and realizing. These forms or modes of sensibility, therefore, can include even the narrow limits of modernism which can now be used selectively (each according to his own vision and imaginative needs) as part of the total spectrum giving expression to what lies in the human heart. It is only when the modernist insists too much that he goes wrong; because life is not only the tendency toward the intelligent invention of patterns of logical relationships; or the tendency toward producing chaos and noise and senseless gestures; or a piling up of meaningless ?events.? It is also the warming smile, the agonized cry, the tender glance, the firmness of friendship, power of love and a million other simple and complex states, all happening simultaneously to millions of human beings everywhere. We transform the modern experience (mostly of pain, disaffection, anger, frustration) into the darker colors of an expanded palette which still includes the gold of joy, the blue of love, and the red of vitality. We identify ourselves and our art by the breadth of what it includes, not by the narrow space of what it excludes.

My Octet makes no pretense to being totally inclusive. No piece of music can be that and retain its own special quality and form of coherence. If the Octet leans more heavily on the darker colors of atonal chromaticism than on the brighter ones of tonal diatonicism, that is entirely purposeful. What I have tried to accomplish in this work is a fusion of atonal harmonic means with the directionality of tonal principles derived from the major-minor system. My experience with atonality and, more recently, with tonality has led me to the point where I felt it was possible to fuse the two by establishing the peculiar bite and pungency of atonal means on the solid ground of tonal direction. In that way, they interpenetrate each other and new kinds of relationships emerge. There is no theory attached to this. It is simply using one?s ears in a different, possibly a new way to arrive at levels of organization which pure diatonicism and pure chromaticism do not allow. Such fusion, if it can be made to work, opens out on a still further enlargement of the possible mans of musical expression. The Octet is my first conscious effort to realize this further enlargement.

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Composition Date 1980
Duration 00:23:00
Orchestration Fl. Cl. Hn. Pno. Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb.
Premiere Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Alice Tully Hall, New York, April 25, 1980

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