for Soprano and 11 Players

George Rochberg

Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

?Tableaux, Sound Pictures?, written for Elizabeth and Robert Suderburg and based on my son Paul?s story, ?The Silver Talons of Piero Kostrov,? was composed for soprano, a small ensemble of singing/speaking voices and eleven players in August-September 1968. The instrumental ensemble consists of: flute (alto flute; piccolo), clarinet (A; E-flat), trumpet in C (piccolo trumpet in C), French horn, trombone; keyboard (piano, celesta, Baldwin Electric Harpsichord or R M I Electra Piano), percussion; violin, viola, cello and bass.

?The Silver Talons of Piero Kostrov? (published in the magazine ?Chelsea 17?, August 1965 issue) is a surreal tale of terror and love. Its atmosphere and actions are dominated by Kostrov?s real or imagined fears, the ?silver talons? of the human psyche which rend and tear and eventually destroy love and life. Kostrov, their maker, becomes their victim.

I selected from the story those images which characterized it for me in musical terms and made each one the basis of a section of the work, conceiving each section as a fixed static projection in sound?hence the title. It is through accumulation and movement around a core of emotional states rather than through development or growth that the work builds itself into a whole. The juxtaposition of violently contrasting moods which mirror the passions of the story is the primary means determining the order of musical events.

In a sense, then, I set a story to music. This turns out to be a completely different problem from that of the usual one of setting poetry. The emotional, therefore structural, curve of ?Tableaux? was in no way dictated by the text of the story but rather by a free disposition of the psychological content and substance of its selected images. Conceivably, I could have arrived at a different disposition or chosen another set of images. Theoretically, I suppose, the possibilities are infinite. but one could not escape the iron demands of capturing in sound the dark fantasy of the story and its particular world of time and space. The use of voices serves to project the recurring motifs of the story; the instrumental ensemble establishes a parallel sound-world to the sound-world built into the story itself through the style of writing.

There are 12 section divided into 3 parts:

I: 1. Night Piece:
(?I heard a woman singing, singing with the voice of a child ? I did not know the song, but in it the sun
never set ? I could hear her singing. Wordlessly, or I could not hear her words.?) Death?s Mask.
2. Morning Bell Music:
(?Morning bells singing in my ears. Giant seashells, waves beating in them forever. Sing to the new sun ...
Sing to all.?) The world knows my joy!
3. The Cathedral:
(?In silence broods the cathedral.?)
4. Night Piece:
(?Night, again night.?) He doesn?t live here anymore.
II: 5. Silver Talon Music:
(?Those birds. Their reptilian talons, beaks, that tear away the flesh and grind the bones ? They fly to
heaven and tear the gods to pieces, everyone. There are new rulers on earth, in the sky.?)
6. Echo Night Piece:
(?Night, again night.?) Why must it always return?
7. The Chant:
(?I hear singing, chanting from far away ? Every movement premeditated for ages. Singing; from the river,
the cathedral, from under the earth.?)
Miserere nobis.
(Boat, drifts, river, on and on, fire glow silent, on and on, silent flows.?)

8. The Light:
(?It flooded the sky with gold??)
spoken concurrently:
{ Morning bells singing
{ Giant seashells, waves beating in them forever. Sing to the new sun?
{The cathedral, how it rises from the ground. It seems to fly upward, to strain against the stones?
III. 9. Ballad:
(?If I were sure that your existence and mine were more than a shadow. If I could be certain that you are not
merely a mirage, And I only a passing could.?)
10. Night Piece:
(?We sleep,
The night is warm
The sun shines through the earth.?)
11. The Eagle:
(?A shapeless bundle like a human form shrieks once and sinks into the sea. There is a huge eagle in the
middle of the stage clutching a shapeless bundle vaguely like a human form in its talons. It screams once
and flies out into the audience, up to the ceiling and vanishes.?)
12. (?And yet you are, although you cannot be.?)

Available on Rental

Scores & Parts

Tableaux - Full Score - Study

Additional Information

Composition Date 1968
Duration 00:20:00
Orchestration Soprano, 2 Speaking Voices (Young Woman, Young Man); Fl.(dbl. A.Fl., Picc.) Cl.(dbl.Acl., E-flatCl.) Tpt.(dbl.Picc.Tpt.) Hn. Tbn. Perc. Kbd.(Pno., Cel., Hpsd.) Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb.
Premiere University of Washington Contemporary Group, October 31, 1969


I. Night Piece
II. Morning Bell music
III. The Cathedral