- Circles of Fire, for 2 pianos - George Rochberg - Evan Hirsch - Sally Pinkas - Hirsch-Pinkas Piano Duo
George Rochberg: Piano Music, Vol. 1by Hirsch-Pinkas Piano Duo
Originally recorded in 1998 and issued on the Gasparo label the following year, this album was acquired by Naxos and reissued as the kickoff to an apparently complete cycle of George Rochberg's piano music. The entire album is devoted to a single 70-minute work, "Circles of Fire," and it's something of a summation of the life's work of this American composer, who… See more details below
Originally recorded in 1998 and issued on the Gasparo label the following year, this album was acquired by Naxos and reissued as the kickoff to an apparently complete cycle of George Rochberg's piano music. The entire album is devoted to a single 70-minute work, "Circles of Fire," and it's something of a summation of the life's work of this American composer, who stirred outrage when he bucked the serialist orthodoxy and returned to tonality with his "String Quartet No. 3" in 1972. He never completely abandoned atonal procedures, often using them in contrast with tonal passages, and he favored stylistic collages. "Circles of Fire for two pianos," commissioned by the Hirsch-Pinkas Piano Duo heard here, develops these ideas on a large scale. The work's 15 movements include techniques ranging from twelve-tone music (in the "Canonic Variations," track 3) to quotation (the "Fuga a sei voci," track 13, is closely based on a Bach fugue), to aleatoric devices (in the "Nebulae," track 7, and "The Infinite Ricercar," track 10, whose main polyphonic material may be repeated as many times as the players desire). Rochberg sets the formal procedures against unusually violent music, augmented by manipulation of the tension between the two piano parts, in the longer movements, creating an almost Mahlerian canvas of musical impulses. Simple chordal or melodic pieces entitled "Solemn Refrain" provide a framework, and each end is further weighted by another pair of pieces called "Chiaroscuro." The Hirsch-Pinkas duo offers a completely confident reading of the work that is alert to small musical details, and the piece remains a signal accomplishment in Rochberg's oeuvre, which is holding its own among more immediately crowd-pleasing neo-Romantic music and showing that it was neither as conservative as its backers wanted it to be, nor nearly as simple as its detractors thought. Unusually good sound from a Dartmouth College concert hall is a plus, as are the dual liner notes (in English only), with an impressionistic little essay by Rochberg himself is followed by a technical discussion by pianist Evan Hirsch.
- Release Date:
- Naxos American
Performance CreditsHirsch-Pinkas Piano Duo Primary Artist
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This is fascinating, involving music from a unique and important composer. Rochberg was a 12-tone ideologue before personal tragedy moved him into a highly expressive idiom. His music makes use of whatever means and style is the one he needs at that moment, but it's not pastiche. You hear his skill, craft, the tradition of classical music that came before, and especially his emotional power and urgency. This work is long, involved and involving, not for background listening. It is an existential exploration of the human ability to persevere in trying times; the music is forceful, unsettling, beautiful and satisfying in turns. Rochberg synthesized a vast body of ideas about life and art, combined them with his great skill as a composer and focussed taste as an artist, and made compelling piece. This is music that is challenging but not daunting and an involving, deeply rewarding experience.