The Wire

George Rochberg’s Third Quartet from 1972 is a masterpiece that rejects serial modernism, going beyond quotation in a revival of the styles of Mahler and Beethoven. Like Del Tredici, but a much more substantial figure, Rochberg began as a serialist but rebelled against the avant garde straitjacket, believing that ‘modern’ doesn’t have to imply ‘modernist’. The Quartet is no postmodern pastiche either: “I was trying to find ways to anchor atonal adventures in tonal thinking… don’t know what I call it, and certainly don’t want to diminish or demean it by calling it ‘postmodern'”, the composer wrote recently. Elliott Schwartz’s Bellagio Variations from 1981 is his only string quartet, and a tougher nut. More memorable than other works I’ve heard by this composer, it gets powerful advocacy from The Kreutzer Quartet.

—Andy Hamilton