The American composer George Rochberg (1918-2005) started out as a modernist, but turned toward a more traditional style after the death of his son, having found that the atonal idiom was incapable of expressing the grief and rage the event naturally inspired in him. Despite this, Rochberg’s Transcendental Variations for string orchestra, an arrangement of what was originally the slow movement of his Third String Quartet, are mostly serene and lyrical in mood, and have often been compared to the late music of Beethoven.
Although I don’t know if Rochberg was a political reactionary, the booklet that came with my CD of the Variations certainly paints him as an artist who wanted to transcend the individualism, neophilia, subjectivism, and anti-traditionalism of the modern world by establishing a living relationship with the past. I particularly like this quote from him. (It seems to be from the 1963 essay The New Image of Music, but the booklet isn’t entirely clear):
Subjective man views existence as change; himself and his history at the center of a process of becoming… Subjective man cannot transcend time; he is trapped in it. However, when man seizes on the present moment of existence as the only ‘real’ time, he spatializes his existence; that is, he fills his present with objects that take on… a state of permanence.
This performance of the Variations, taken from said CD, is by the Saarbrucken Radio Symphony Orchestra under conductor Christopher Lyndon-Gee.
Theme/Variation 1. Adagio sereno; molto espressivo e tranquillo:
Variation 2. Andante con moto:
Variation 3. Poco adagio:
Variation 4. Poco allegretto; grazioso e leggiero; amoroso:
Variation 5. Andantino grazioso; sempre leggiero:
Variation 6. Moving gently:
Variation 7. Molto adagio e tranquillo; sereno: