Symphony No. 6

for Large Orchestra

George Rochberg

Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

I do not recollect exactly when I decided that my Sixth Symphony would be the second of a trilogy, starting with my Fifth Symphony written for Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony in 1983, and to be completed by a seventh in the next few years. The only reason for conceiving such an idea was to draw together within a large conceptual frame musical ideas, structural forms, emotional substances and gestures which, while clearly different from each other form work to work, nevertheless share an all-embracing unity of attitudes I hold toward the present-day orchestra as a compelling medium of expression in particular and the gamut of musical thinking that has interested me in recent years in general. Where the Fifth Symphony is compact, emotionally intense and driven, structurally concentrated and condensed, the Sixth Symphony is ?though still intense, especially in its first part ? more open, structurally freer, and, in a way, more public in its projection, particularly in its second part. Since the Seventh does not yet exist, it would be premature to attempt to describe what I have in mind.

The Sixth is in two parts, designated as ?Fantasia? and ?Marcia?, respectively. Central to the Fantasia are various kinds of fanfares, evoking not only the ancient association with what we now know to be the false glories of war, but also the hidden, underlying tragic implications of mankind?s perennial passion for making war and its inability to rid itself of a sophist8icated barbarism rationalized as the military side of national defense. I find nothing glorious in death and destruction regardless of the rhetorics overtly or covertly advanced in their cause. These fanfares come in unexpected ways and in unexpected places during the course of the Fantasia, emerging out of or interrupting or taking over other kinds of musical ideas. The core of this ensemble of other ideas is a lento which goes below the surface of things into dark and probing regions and provides the basis for deriving different yet related motives and melodic ideas.

Part Two is comprised of a series of three different marches, of which the first is the over-all frame for the second and third. In the old classical tradition of character pieces such as the scherzo, march, and dance forms, contrasting parts were called ?trios.? In that sense, each of these two other marches can be thought of as an extended ?trio.? Fanfares again occur in these ?trios? ? some of them variants of fanfares from the Fantasia, others brand new. The main tune of the third march ? all three marches have clearly defined tunes of different character and attitude ? was the principal tune of a parade march I wrote in 1943 o4 1944 for the 65th Infantry Division band when I was briefly attached as a Special Service officer to one of the companies of that division while it was in training in Camp Shelby, Mississippi. The march itself is ?lost? ? i.e., I possess no copy of it; but the tune I use in this work haunted me during all the ensu9ing time after World war II, and I knew some day I would make use of it. the figures in the woodwinds accompanying this tune are drawn from the material of the second march, thus making a kind of polyphonic joining of the two. What perhaps can be called the ?Epilogue? ? really an extended coda ? of Part Two pulls the marches back into the world of the Fantasia.

The several tonalities of the work act more like magnetic poles than the tonalities of more traditional music. E-flat serves and the Fantasia?s essential tonal pole. The marches are magnetized around G minor, A-flat major, and G?B-flat?D major, respectively. The ?Epilogue? (or coda) is drawn back into the orbit of the E-flat pole.

I have not attempted to convert the orchestra into a huge, multivoiced chamber ensemble, but rather to take advantage of the massed families (and their possible mixtures in color and texture) of the winds, brasses, percussion, harps, and strings. The canvas of the work is large and, in a sense, designed to allow for maximum clarity through projection in orchestral sound.

The work was sketched in the spring and summer of 1986 and orchestrated in the fall and winter of 1986-87. It was completed in January 1987. Commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Society for Lorin Maazel, it is the second work I have written for the Pittsburgh Symphony ?the first being my Violin Concerto introduced by Isaac Stern. I believe very strongly that music should be, whenever possible, written for specific performers or performing organizations. It makes the act of writing the music more real, more immediately human, and completely concrete.

Available on Rental

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Society
Composition Date 1986-1987
Duration 00:35:00
Orchestration 4 4 5 4 - 4 4 3 1; 2Timp. 3Perc. Cel. 2Hp. Str.
Premiere Lorin Maazel, conductor, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, October 16, 1987


I Fantasia: Allegro
II Marcia

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