The music of George Rochberg bucked serialist orthodoxy when he began to compose in a tonal idiom in the mid-'60s, drawing on a wide variety of styles and finding in them the emotional content he needed to express his grief over the death of his son. The controversy that erupted is mostly forgotten now that serialism is hardly orthodox, but what's also been forgotten is the degree to which Rochberg's influence was felt in the large movement subsumed under the label of postmodernism. This fine release by pianist Jerome Lowenthal, for whom several of the pieces here were composed, serves as a reminder of just how important Rochberg was. Included is Rochberg's Nach Bach (1966), one of the first Rochberg works to depart from serialism. Rochberg's later Carnival Music (1971, written for Lowenthal) and Partita-Variations (1976) show the composer refining his stylistic juxtapositions and boiling them down to more concise structures, and indeed one comes away with the impression that there are innovations in Rochberg's music that have yet to be fully explored. Consider the Blues movement in the Carnival Music, which adopts blues pitch content fully but blues structure much less so: it's fascinating, and it doesn't sound much like later postmodern pop-influenced music. The Bagatelles of Paul Chihara, also written for Lowenthal, reflect Rochberg's influence and its possibilities in the expression of personal narrative, and Ned Rorem's little 75 Notes for Jerry are a delightful tribute to Lowenthal, who has delivered a little album of considerable historical importance.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Partita - Variations|
|Bagatelles (Twice Seven Haiku for Piano)|