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Rochberg And His Worlds is a 3-concert Festival exploring a huge legacy of American music that has largely vanished from concert programs – American composersof the 1950's-90's working in a modernist or postmodern aesthetic.

The festival centers around George Rochberg, a pivotal figure in American music. Rochberg’s  historic turn, as America’s leading modernist composer, who then rejected modernism in favor of a postmodern approach to composition, helped empower a new freedom and agency for all American composers that resonates to this day.

The 2018 Rochberg Centennial went virtually unremarked upon. And in fact, almost none of Rochberg’s contemporaries are receiving regular performances of their music today. These are major American artists who, during their lives, were considered some of our leading creative lights.

Rochberg And His Worlds seeks to bring this great music back into the light, and to reevaluate their work from a contemporary perspective, where old arguments about serial dogma and the ‘uptown/downtown divide’ no longer seem relevant. The festival will allow this music to speak on its own terms, and allow today’s audiences to experience a truly amazing period of American music, when composers were forging radically new approaches to creating art.

June 02, 2020


Concert 1: Momenta Quartet and Lost Dog

National Opera Center


Momenta Quartet

Lost Dog New Music Ensemble

Jayce Ogren, conductor


George Rochberg: String Quartet No. 3

Gunther Schuller: Octet

Rochberg’s aesthetic crisis was the result of a tragedy – his teenage son Paul’s death from a brain tumor. Rochberg felt that modernism did not allow him the freedom to express his grief through art, and began incorporating tonality into his music. The first major statement of his new approach, the String Quartet No. 3, incorporating references to Beethoven and Mahler, was considered scandalous. This 50-minute quartet is one of the great American contributions to the genre.

Schuller's ‘Octet,’ though explicitly modeled on the form of Schubert’s Octet, maintains a modern approach to harmony, creating a fascinating resonance between modernity and history - emblematic of the composer's embrace of a broad musical vision and unique expresivity.

June 03, 2020

7:00 PM

Concert 2: Lost Operas

National Opera Center


Excerpts from operas of the period which have entirely vanished from the repertoire. Most of these epic statements from major American composers had only one or two performances,  and were never heard again.

Operas to include George Rochberg's The Confidence Man; Louise Talma's The Alcestiad (with libretto by Thornton Wilder); Andrew Imbrie's Angle of Repose; Ross Lee Finney's Weep Torn Land; Gunther Schuller's The Visitation; Leon Kirchner's Lily; and Roger Sessions' Montezuma

June 05, 2020

8:00 PM

Concert 3: Sinfonias

Dimenna Center for Classical Music, Cary Hall

Sarah Moyer, Soprano

Jayce Ogren, conductor

George Walker: Music for 3

George Rochberg: Chamber Symphony

Leon Kirchner: Lily

Donald Martino: Notturno

Jacob Druckman: Counterpoise

Major works for large ensemble by giants of American music. The Rochberg and Martino are modernist masterpieces, using serial techniques to create music that is shockingly exciting and deeply moving. The trippy ‘Lily,’ from an opera on Bellow’s ‘Henderson the Rain King’, includes aleatory, as well as tape of Kirchner himself as Henderson. Druckman's ‘Counterpoise’ is one of the greatest song cycles ever written, gorgeously sensual and lush.

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The Concerts

TIckets for each concert are $20.

The June 2 and June 3 concerts take place at the National Opera Center, 330 7th Avenue VIEW MAP

The June 5 concert takes place at the Dimenna Center, Cary Hall, 450 W 37th St VIEW MAP

Momenta Press photo.jpg

Jayce Ogren

photo by Rebecca Fay

Momenta Quartet

photo by John Gurrin

Sarah Moyer

photo by Kate Lemmonj

The Composers

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