The Signifying Potential of the 'Es ist Genug' Chorale theme in Christopher Rouse's Iscariot

Mike Morey, University of North Texas

Christopher Rouse's Iscariot (1989) for small orchestra contains a direct partial quotation from the "Es ist Genug" chorale, a Lutheran hymn recognized especially for its opening augmented tetrachord and made especially well-known through J.S. Bach's chorale of his cantata, O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort (BWV 60), and in Alban Berg's Violin Concerto (1935). Referring to Iscariot as one of his more encoded pieces, Rouse employs the strophe/antistrophe part of the Greek chorus structure to frame every major musical event, providing a formal space in which the expressive logic occurs. I argue that examining the work's musical narrative and the quotation's signifying potential can be seen through what Klein calls "an emplotment of expressive states as opposed to a sequence of actors and their actions," concluding that Rouse has added to repository of meanings contained in the "Es ist Genug" symbol.