Wilson: Sinfonia/Harbison: Symphony No. 1
Liner Notes   Cat. No. 80331     Release Date: 1985-01-01

Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa

John Harbison's music draws together gestures and ideas from musical worlds that reflect such favorite composers as Robert Schumann and Heinrich Schutz, the songs of George Gershwin, and the hieratic qualities of Igor Stravinsky. His work has always been expressive, though never with a heart-on-sleeve emoting of personal angst, a mode that simply does not interest him. Recently Harbison has shown an interest in recapturing such historical genres as the formal set of variations (as in his Variations for violin, clarinet, and piano) or the piano quintet. The Symphony No. 1 comes naturally in this progression, being cast in four discrete movements following a two-hundred-year tradition of symphonic writing rather than the symphony in one-movement form that is quite frequently encountered these days.

Although he makes use of avant-garde techniques, Olly Wilson is not a doctrinaire composer. Wilson has noted that the first movement of Sinfonia evolves somewhat like “waves; each of which starts as an undeveloped motive that gradually becomes an extended musical idea before it is interrupted by the beginning of a new idea.” The second movement is an elegy in memory of the composer's father, Olly Wilson, Sr., and his friend, the extraordinarily gifted young conductor Calvin Simmons, both of whom died during 1982-83. The third movement is a stylized dance. One idea, featuring an angular melodic line in high strings and woodwinds, alternates with a second, characterized by rhythmic figures in strings, brass, and percussion. The climax reveals the music’s source in traditional blues.

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Wilson: Sinfonia/Harbison: Symphony No. 1

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Track Listing

Sinfonia: I. Moderato
Olly Wilson
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Sinfonia: II. Largo-Elegy for Olly Wilson Sr. and Calvin Simmons
Olly Wilson
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Sinfonia: III. Allegro
Olly Wilson
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Symphony No. 1: I. Drammatico
John Harbison
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Symphony No. 1: II. Allegro sfumato
John Harbison
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Symphony No. 1: III. Paesaggio: andante
John Harbison
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Symphony No. 1: IV. Tempo giusto
John Harbison
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