Tonal reform or radical tonality? A study of Neoromanticism in American music, with an emphasis on the music and thought of George Rochberg, David Del Tredici, and Stephen Albert

Date of Completion

January 1994






Although the term Neoromanticism frequently has been applied to the music of twentieth-century composers, no clear or consistent definition of it exists. In particular, the music of American composers George Rochberg, David Del Tredici, and Stephen Albert is often cited as exemplary of the Neoromantic style. It was the purpose of this study to identify and analyze compositional techniques that are used consistently by all three composers in selected works for small and large instrumental ensembles, some with voice, and thus to draw conclusions regarding the appropriateness of the term Neoromanticism as applied to their music.^ Style characteristics present in the music of Rochberg, Del Tredici, and Albert were compared and contrasted with those processes commonly associated with nineteenth-century Romantic music. Works were examined with respect to harmonic, thematic, and formal practices, both traditional and nontraditional. Selected representative works were studied chronologically.^ Because a discussion of Neoromanticism requires a clarification of how the term has been understood, the term was examined in the context of how the three composers view Neoromanticism and how the term has evolved historically. Particular emphasis was placed on the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's Horizons '83 and Horizons '84 series on Neoromantic music, and interviews were conducted with the composers themselves.^ The results of the study showed that, although Rochberg, Del Tredici, and Albert included twentieth-century practices in their works, their harmonic, melodic, and formal applications are in many ways rooted in nineteenth-century practices. When these nineteenth-century techniques are used in combination with those more typical of twentieth-century music, the result is a style that can appropriately be termed Neoromantic. ^