Kreutzer Quartet, Schwartz / Rochberg: Variations – Quartets

Gavin Borchert

By Gavin Borchert

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Schwartz / Rochberg: Variations - Quartets

Kreutzer Quartet
A radical combination of high Modernism and classical form.

In the early '60s, George Rochberg became dissatisfied with the restrictions of musical fashion, and began to revisit traditional tonality, at first by quoting Mozart and Bach in his music. But in his controversial Quartet No. 3 (1972), he wrote his own "19th-century music," so to speak, combining the language of high Modernism, angular and often atonal (the idiom of Elliott Schwartz's mercurial, virtuosic Bellagio Variations, also on this disc), with a ravishing theme-and-variations movement that seems to take up where Beethoven and Schubert left off. Rochberg sets these styles in opposition, much like a composer from an earlier time might have dramatically contrasted major and minor modes, and makes musical style itself an element for a composer to play with. (Rochberg's preferred analogy was to compare the difference between tonal and atonal music to the difference between representational and abstract art.)