- Symphony No. 2
- Imago Mundi, for orchestra
One of George Rochberg's early successes, the "Symphony No. 2" (1955-1956), is a vigorous work in the rugged American symphonic tradition, shot through with modernist atonality and brusque dissonances, yet filled with muscular themes and energetically argued developments that reveal its essentially traditional character. Cast in five movements and running over 30 minutes in length, this ambitious essay traverses a broad range of moods and expressions; the dominant tone, however, is active, typified by the punchy accents and propulsive rhythms that dominate the Declamando and the Allegro scherzoso, subside in the Adagio, then return with full force in the Quasi tempo primo and the coda. This symphony's pugnacity is often attributed to Rochberg's experiences in World War II, and this aspect of the work seems emphasized in the hard-edged performance by the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra under Christopher Lyndon-Gee. In its exotic tone colors and subtle evocation of Gagaku music and Ukiyo-E painting, "Imago Mundi" (1973) is worlds away from the wartime hostilities that fueled the symphony, and reflects Rochberg's impressions from his trip to Japan. Yet certain odd quotations from Shostakovich and Bartók, among others, seem to indicate some ambivalence about the work's subject or direction, and this vagueness seems to have thrown off the conductor and the orchestra, who play with somewhat less enthusiasm, clarity, and cohesion.