ROCHBERG dedication remastered

September 26th, 2019 Uncategorized

Cacioppo’s monument to George Rochberg is now available for listening on YouTube at

Ciclo metamorfico sul nome d’un maestro (1988)
Metamorphic cycle on the name of a master 
Curt Cacioppo, pianist (world premiere performance)
Bösendorfer Imperial #29041
Lawrence H. Fornaci, piano technician
LIVE at Marshall Auditorium, Haverford College, 10/22/88
Jeanne Velonis, audio post-production

Part One
Getreidegasse Nr. 9          0 – 1.49
Lo studio                      1:50 – 3:25
Apparition                    3:26 – 4:40
The Absolutist              4:41 – 6:46
Scena appassionata e pastorale  6:47 – 9:53
Amusement                  9:54 – 11:19
Reflection                     11:20 – 13:47
Part Two
Sarbaggiu                      13:48 – 22:41
Bagatelle                      22:42 – 25:24
America: a prayer      25:25 – 31:50
Finale: Rondino          39:51 – 42:38

Ciclo metamorfico began as a greeting to George Rochberg on the occasion of his 70th birthday. The work ultimately expanded into a two-part cycle of eleven pieces. Perpetual metamorphosis and transfiguration of opening thematic materials into contrasting musical characters prompted the extenuation.

Using a polyglot solmisation alphabet, the theme stated at the outset of the first piece spells in musical notes the name George Rochberg. The tune is set in a Mozartean texture, Alberti accompaniment and all, because I first started thinking about what to do with it when visiting the house in Salzburg where Mozart was born, Getreidegasse Nr. 9 (the cycle reflects much of my travels through Austria, Germany, Italy and Sicily in 1986-87). The curious spelling of George’s name into a simple C-major melody with classical accompaniment makes an appropriate allusion to his (and my own) belief in establishing and maintaining a living connection with the past. By the end of the first piece, the Mozart tune literally turns into a motif from Rochberg’s Serenata d’estate. We segue into the second piece.

“Lo studio,” a little scenario full of puns, depicts George in his workroom on the verge of producing the opening theme of his Partita Variations. The previous Serenata motif turns into a Beethoven bagatelle theme, effects and strains from the Leonore Overture No. 3 and the Quartet in C#-minor enter in, and an amorphicization of a Hammerklavier interlude eventually formalizes itself into the explosive motto of the Partita Variations. The piece ends quietly, punctuated by the famous motif from Beethoven’s Op. 111. (It was, of course, George’s adoption of Beethoven’s style in sections of his early tonal-atonal mixed language pieces that called to my love of Beethoven and drew us into acquaintance.)

“Apparition” represents the sparse disembodiment of the Alberti accompaniment to the Getreidegasse theme.

“The Absolutist” is another scenario. An argument takes place between the declamatory and insistent material of the beginning (I always admired George for being able to come up with this kind of theme), and a quicker, more nondescript type of material characteristic of convoluted serial textures of the 50’s and 60’s that George ferociously railed against.

“Scena appassionata e pastorale” begins with a romantic outburst recalling the mood of one of Rochberg’s Four Short Sonatas. The tranquil middle section uses as a melody the inversion of the name theme.

“Amusement” was written on carnival day in the small Tuscan town of Loro Ciufenna, Italy, where I was living with my family during my leave. “Reflection” recalls the C-major melody in a slow, mystical way. Shimmering arpeggios on chromatic chords evoke the silver-green glistening of olive branches in the sunlight, over which the call of a bird typical to Tuscany is heard. This marks the end of the first part.

The four pieces comprising the second part of the cycle are each of larger scope. “Sarbaggiu” is Sicilian – actually Palermo dialect – for “savage.” The piece is in a fast-slow-fast form. The outer sections, in a violent b-minor, quote here and there the opening motif of Rochberg’s Second Symphony. Vendors’ cries from Sicily and Naples, and a festival fanfare from Arezzo, also make their way into the contrapuntal texture. The slow section comes out of my sweet-sad reaction to atmospheres in Sicily, and bears kinship to the “Nocturne” – by Giacomo Leopardi – “of a wandering shepherd.”

“Bagatelle,” in a reserved way, plays with extremes of register and pedal sonorities. “America: a prayer” I began in Italy and completed in the United States. After some months away in Italy, I started to view my country very differently. I lamented its offenses, and began to pray for cultivation of its attributes, and for our evolution into an ever more generous people of peace. In the middle section of the piece, a motif representing the eagle, our national symbol, calls out that we use our power and resources wisely, for the good of all, for the good of the earth.

The finale, “Rondino,” is really a sonata form with double coda. However, the title signifies that, for the most part, the expression is to be light, like in a little rondo. The C-major Mozartean material returns in 6/8 meter to form the theme. The image is again Austrian – one hears the church bells of Salzburg, the rhythm of the waltz. The development section poses one ornery problem – the obstinate repetition of a series of loud b-flat octaves. Initially there were seven – one for each decade George has lived. Eventually, they added up to thirteen, which is a lucky number in Italy – a way of toasting “cent’ anni” (live for a hundered years!) to George. The first coda launches into a rapid 3/4 meter. A phrase from Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony is inserted, and the music intensifies its joyful feeling. Here I desired to build up something almost euphoric. (The melody unit reiterating here echoes a „Glück auf!” hymn from the Goslar area in the Harz, West Germany). The climax spills into a recurrence of the appassionata phrase of the fifth piece, and from here a second coda – a long diminuendo – ensues. As in the seventh piece, the C-major theme finds a more reflective, mystical expression. The work finishes with two deep, pianissimo chords.

— Curt Cacioppo

(notes from the world premiere performance program October 22, 1988)