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The composer shows the score to Mayor Harold Washington

On March 13, 1986, Sir Georg Solti conducted the world premiere of George Rochberg‘s Symphony no. 5, which had been commissioned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the City of Chicago. The work was dedicated to Solti and the Orchestra in memory of John S. Edwards, general manager of The Orchestral Association from 1967 until 1984.


The composer was in Chicago for the premiere and contributed to the program notes: “My 5th Symphony is an intense, passionate work of an emotional scale which I hope wholly befits the city, the occasion, the conductor, and the orchestra for which it was written. It was John Edwards, long-time executive director and manager of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who originally approached me with the idea of writing such a work and I am truly sorry he is not here any longer to share these first performances with me and his colleagues.

“The character of this work is mainly chromatic with virtually no overt references to the tonal palette which most people have come to associate with my music. Its form, which derives from its general content, is unique for me, not so much because it is cast in seven sections comprising one large-scale, uninterrupted movement, but because I have tried to mix formal procedures with imagistic ones in a process of organic growth stemming from a core. . . .

The composer and Solti backstage following the world premiere

“One has to imagine a kind of constantly evolving and spiralling funnel, starting from the opening statement—the core of the work—which, as it spirals upward and outward in increasingly widening turns with each new section, gathers up ideas and materials already stated until at the Finale everything which has been previously expressed is brought together and unified.”

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