John Harbison: Early Works
Liner Notes   Cat. No. NWCR875     Release Date: 2007-01-01
American Composers Orchestra; Robert Miller, piano; Gunther Schuller, Conductor; Jane Bryden, soprano; D'Anna Fortunato, mezzo-soprano; Karl Dan Sorensen, tenor; Mark Baker, bass; Rose Mary Harbison, violin; Erica Miner, violin; Betty Hauck, viola; Jay Humeston, cello; William Wiley, percussion; Benjamin Carriel, percussion; Cantata Singers and Ensemble; John Harbison, Conductor; Robert D. Levin, electric organ; Albert Regni, tenor saxophone; Helen Harbison, cello


Throughout his compositional career, John Harbison has referred to the influence that jazz and the music of the Baroque have had on his work as a composer. His early experiences as a musician included playing jazz piano, and an important facet of his musical language derives from that harmonic, timbral and gestural world (notably the second movement of the Oboe Concerto, the final movement of the Second Symphony, the overture Remembering Gatsby, and various sections of the opera The Great Gatsby). Although his music is always completely composed with no actual improvisation, the style of jazz or its essential feel and sound are often present even thought the means of its production comes directly from the tradition of Western classical music.

An apparently contrary tendency is Harbison’s interest in detailed counterpoint, a sensibility with strong ties to the music of the Baroque. His love of the music of Bach, Schütz and Scheine is well known, and the intricate craftsmanship evident in Harbison’s compositions bears witness to the influence these composers exert on his work. Moreover, his oeuvre is replete with examples of fugues, canons and other contrapuntal textures, and beginning with A Winter’s Tale (1974), his treatment of the bass begins to approach that of a strong, functional bass line, another example of his affinity for Baroque methods.

During the period that two of the works on this recording were written, he was also musical director of the Cantata Singers, a position he held from 1969-73. These works, Bermuda Triangle (1970), and Five Songs of Experience (1973), as well as Parody-Fantasia (1968), extensively reflect these early experiences performing jazz and conducting choral music. The only later work on this recoding, the Piano Concerto (1978), comes from the period in which Harbison first came to national attention following the premiere of his first orchestral work, Diotima, by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1976.

This title, originally issued on the CRI label, is now available for order from New World Records as an on-demand CD (CD-R). It can also be downloaded in MP3/320, FLAC and/or WAV format(s).

Various Artists

John Harbison: Early Works

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Track Listing

Piano Concerto
John Harbison
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Five Songs of Experience: I. Introduction
John Harbison
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Five Songs of Experience: II. Earth's Answer
John Harbison
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Five Songs of Experience: III. Ah! Sun-flower
John Harbison
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Five Songs of Experience: IV. The Voice of the Ancient Bard
John Harbison
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Five Songs of Experience: V. A Divine Image
John Harbison
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Bermuda Triangle
John Harbison
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Parody-Fantasia
John Harbison
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