Author Topic: Roy Harris (1898-1979)  (Read 41219 times)

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kentel

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2010, 11:45:09 AM »
I am delighted with this new CD.  The 6th Symphony 'Gettysburg' is perhaps the greatest Harris symphony after No 3 and I am over familiar with the latter. No 5 is also one of the strongest.  Both are from World War Two.  The opening and slow movements of No 6 are especially moving.  Both symphonies have been recorded before but these performances and recordings are preferable - although perhaps the magical opening of No 6 is more realised in the excellent older recording on Albany (Pacific SO, Keith Clark). A great introduction to Harris.

Great news. I consider Harris as the best American symphonists. His harmonies, the very specific way he writes for the strings and the luminous atmospheres of his works are unique . I discovered it too with this Gettysburg symphony in the outstanding Keith Clark version on the radio. And I agree : this symphony is the best he wrote. Each movement is a jewel. But I think I love all his symphonies; maybe less the 4th which is less personal. And well, not that much the Symphony for voices either.

But I haven't heard the last ones yet (he wrote actually 13 symphonies and I never found the the 12th nor the 13th...).

While writing this message I was listening to this new CD with Marin Alsop (it is already on the Naxos Music Library), and I still prefer the Clark version : much clearer, more distinct,  it makes also a bigger impact, and the final apotheosis is definitely more powerful. But the introduction and the slow movement are fine, as you said.

--Gilles

Offline drogulus

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2010, 01:58:11 PM »
      I'm glad to see the 6th symphony getting some acclaim, because it's been neglected. The Clark/Pacific SO recording on Albany is the only one I know, and it's so gripping that I can hardly imagine a better introduction to the rest of Harris. In particular I admire the slow movement, which has a mysterious quality that's unique. If you're looking for evidence that Harris was not just a one-hit wonder this is the work and the recording that you should hear first.

      Also very good on this recording is Barber's Second Essay for Orchestra.

     

      The Harris Copland Barber disc on Albany got me curious about Clark. He has a few recordings on Reference Recordings worth hearing, especially Respighi's Church Windows.

     

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Offline The new erato

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #22 on: January 29, 2010, 09:52:37 AM »
I am delighted with this new CD.  The 6th Symphony 'Gettysburg' is perhaps the greatest Harris symphony after No 3 and I am over familiar with the latter. No 5 is also one of the strongest.  Both are from World War Two.  The opening and slow movements of No 6 are especially moving.  Both symphonies have been recorded before but these performances and recordings are preferable - although perhaps the magical opening of No 6 is more realised in the excellent older recording on Albany (Pacific SO, Keith Clark). A great introduction to Harris.
Andrew Clemens in the Guardian didn't like it one bit though:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/jan/28/harris-symphonies-5-6-review

Since I don't have it but intend to purchase it anyway I just post the link as a potentially interesting observztion.

kentel

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #23 on: January 29, 2010, 11:46:56 AM »
Andrew Clemens in the Guardian didn't like it one bit though:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/jan/28/harris-symphonies-5-6-review

Since I don't have it but intend to purchase it anyway I just post the link as a potentially interesting observztion.

Thanks for the link; I quote a little bit of it :

"The problem is that Harris's music hardly ever rises above the patriotic breast-beating to ­become anything memorable or ­remotely personal. The Sixth is ­perhaps the more convincing. Its third movement, Dedication, with its theme gently unfolded over an almost Philip Glass-like pulsing accompaniment, has a quiet, touching poetry, but the rest is disappointingly empty. The ­excellent performances from Marin Alsop and the Bournemouth ­Symphony Orchestra ­deserve greater musical rewards."

Funny though : my impression was symmetrically the opposite. Harris 5th & 6th are deeply original works and Marin Alsop is not really convincing. There is just this comment about Glass, I don't get the point there. Does he thinks that because something is repeated in a way or another, it has something to do with Glass ?

--Gilles




kentel

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #24 on: January 29, 2010, 12:34:20 PM »
This

"Though it's admirable of Naxos to ­include a complete cycle of Roy Harris's symphonies (all 16 of them)"

raises another question : which symphonies is he talking about ? Harris completed only 13 numerotated symphonies. If you also  take into consideration

- the Symphony for voices (for voices)
- the Symphony for High School Orchestra (lost)
- the American Symphony for jazz band (unfinished)
- the Choral Symphony (unfinished)
- the Walt Whitman Symphony (unfinished)

then it makes 18.

Moreover, you can read on the Wikipedia the following information :

"Naxos Records is in process of recording the 13 numbered symphonies with conductor Marin Alsop."

and not "all 16 of them".
« Last Edit: January 29, 2010, 12:37:25 PM by kentel »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #25 on: January 30, 2010, 03:45:52 AM »
Thanks guys for the interesting replies to my posting.  I don't agree with the Guardian review at all. Symphony No 6 is a wonderful score (maybe the last movement is not quite up to the standard of the other three). I first came across the Pacific SO LP when I borrowed it from the record library in 1985. I know the year as my father had died shortly before. I found the opening and third movement of the 6th Symphony very consoling at the time and I always think of my father when I play this symphony.  My own associations and projections I know - but this score means a lot to me. Don't hesitate, it's a great introduction to Harris, great performances, recording and price!
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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #26 on: July 05, 2010, 06:28:09 PM »
Interesting thread to say the least. Harris is far from one of my favorite American composers. He seldom hits the emotional highs of Barber, Piston, Diamond, Copland, or even Ives. His output as documented throughout this thread is really uneven and much of what I have heard just sounds uninspired to me. His most famous work "Symphony No. 3" is probably one of my favorite works of his. I have heard (so far) the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th symphonies and of his other orchestral works I have heard "Violin Concerto," which isn't too bad, "Kentucky Spring," and "Memories of a Child's Sunday." Nothing remotely sticks out or is even memorable.
 
I guess I'll just have to file Harris in the "don't understand right now" bin. I'm sure there's something there, but I just haven't heard it yet.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2010, 06:29:59 PM by Mirror Image »
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Offline cilgwyn

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #27 on: December 12, 2011, 01:07:33 PM »
I am delighted with this new CD.  The 6th Symphony 'Gettysburg' is perhaps the greatest Harris symphony after No 3 and I am over familiar with the latter. No 5 is also one of the strongest.  Both are from World War Two.  The opening and slow movements of No 6 are especially moving.  Both symphonies have been recorded before but these performances and recordings are preferable - although perhaps the magical opening of No 6 is more realised in the excellent older recording on Albany (Pacific SO, Keith Clark). A great introduction to Harris.
I remember hearing the performance of Harris's Sixth,by the Pacific SO in the early 80's. I was in my late teens then & I seem to remember it was broadcast by Radio 3,during the evening!  I have had the Albany cd for quite a while now & while I share some of Dundonnells reservations I find the Sixth a very powerful and exciting symphony in the Pacific SO reading. Of all the 'other' Harris symphonies,this is the one that has the most impact when I listen to it. I would also like to echo 'drogulus's' enthusiasm for the slow movement.Marvellous!
 
  Having said that,the recent recording of the Sixth,by Naxos,was,as far as this listener is concerned,a crashing disappointment. Indeed,if this recording had been my initial encounter with the symphony,I really wonder if I would have even bothered to listen to it again. According to various online reviews,views and comments by critics,listeners & bloggers,I am not the only one who has reservations about the performance. All of which seems to underline another inherent problem with the evaluation of Roy Harris's symphonic legacy. The lack of really first rate performances of his music. So many recordings,the Naxos ones in particular,seem like 'doofers'. But of course,with a composer as neglected & problematic as Harris,this is one of the problems. No major conductor is going to commit to recording his music & so,the only encounters we have with his music are always going to be second rate. Even the Seventh,which is often cited as the finest of Harris's symphonies,after the third,has been seriously neglected on record (and,latterly,cd). Indeed,arguably THE finest recording of all is that of Eugene Ormandy. Okay,it's decent mono & I'm pretty tolerant of old recordings,but it really would be nice to hear a really first rate performance in up to date sound (The Koch is another 'doofer',although,in my opinion,preferable to the Naxos,which is,in all due fairness,their best crack at a Harris symphony,so far!)

The fifth is another case in point. I remember borrowing an RCA gold seal Lp of this old recording,as a teenager,and being captivated by it. Years later,I was able to hear more of Harris's output & my enthusiasm for the score dimmed somewhat. But it's interesting that,thirty odd years later,if I want to listen to a decent performance of this symphony,THAT (in it's Albany incarnation) is still THE recording I reach for!

NB: Regarding Andrew Clements review of the Naxos 5 & 6. While I share his lack of enthusiasm for the performances,I feel obliged to observe that words like 'patchy' & 'empty' could apply,equally well,to some of his reviews.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2011, 02:20:34 PM by cilgwyn »

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #28 on: December 13, 2011, 05:30:44 AM »
A souce-how reliable or not I am not sure-tells me that Naxos has decided not to continue with the so-called "series" of Harris symphonies >:(

If so, that is a real disgrace considering the quantity of rubbish issued in their American Classics series.

On the other hand, I was beginning to wonder if Marin Alsop really has much empathy with the Harris idiom. I found her performances of Nos. 3-6 somewhat underwhelming compared to Bernstein in No.3 or even Clark in No.6.

Btw, you can hear the unrecorded Nos. 10, 12 and 13(or is it 14 ;D ;D) over at UC. They are strange works which really do nothing to enhance Harris's reputation.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2011, 12:16:04 PM by Dundonnell »

Offline cilgwyn

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #29 on: December 13, 2011, 06:23:24 AM »
Following my comments about the Naxos 5 & 6,I had another listen to their No5. Actually,it's not a bad interpretation really.The opening bars a little hesitant,but it is nice to hear this music in up to date sound! Having said that,the earlier performance does seem to have allot more momentum & atmosphere (very important!). But,perhaps it's just my ears or nostalgia for lost youth? (I do wish Albany would show a little more interest in Harris than umpteen volumes of,erm,Don Gillis! :o)
 
After this,I decided to subject myself to a Roy Harris marathon! :o The received opinion being that Harris merely repeated himself in the symphonies composed after the celebrated third,as if he was trying desperately,to somehow recreate the magic of the 3rd by by juggling around with the old formula,hoping he might get lucky again.
 Well,I must admit,as far as I can make out,some of this IS true. If you want Brian or Vaughan Williams's variety and range of expresiion,you're not going to find it here. In fact,the only time Harris seems to have departed from his usual formula is his Fourth,which has some beautiful & touching moments,but allot of moments in between where you are tapping you're fingers & waiting for something as imaginative or striking to happen.
  Having said that I am impressed by Harris's Sixth.which does seem to depart from the formula & strikes me as one of the best American symphonies I have heard. I find it astonishing that the Pacific SO Lp was it's first ever commercial recording.
  I also enjoyed the Fifth for all those lovely,serene,luminous textures & the best parts of it ARE very imposing. I love his use of brass!

  The Seventh is another one. Again,all those imposing brass statements and 'luminous' textures & some of it quite majestic,even grand. At the same time,unlike the 3rd,it's hard to remember individual themes & you certainly can't hum it! In my humble opinion (!) it lacks the earlier works distinctive profile,but having said that,it's still pretty imposing & it's hard not to listen to it without wishing that Bernstein had recorded it (although,personally,I would have preferred a Bernstein Sixth!).

  The eighth,ninth & eleventh follow a similar trajectory,but after a couple of hours of non stop Roy Harris,with all their faults,I honestly can't say I disliked anything I heard. Again,all those striding chords & brass fanfares,those luminous textures,as I keep referring to them (I'm a listener not a musician,what else can I do?) do seem to compensate for any shortcomings they may have in the way of symphonic developement. Even the eleventh,which seems to have disappointed Dundonnell seemed to have something going for it,even if,like the the eighth,it seems more like a large symphonic poem than an actual symphony (I DO like the way he incorporates that piano).

So now,I'm back to what I was listening to before my Harris marathon. Copland! Listening to the variety of expression in such works as Billy the Kid,his third symphony & Piano Concerto (just taking this trio as an example) I don't need to be Alfred Einstein,to see where Roy Harris probably went wrong. Still,with his Symphony 1933 & Second lined up for later on,maybe there's some life in the old Harris dog left! While he does seem to have gone through the motions,to some degree (to allot of a degree!) after the famous third,his orchestration IS very individual,at it's best very beautiful & even exciting;and with all the rubbish that is touted around as great music & good for us,by organisations such as the infamous Beeb;his best efforts,namely No's 3,5,6 & 7 all strike me as deserving of some kind of re-evaluation & certainly deserve allot more exposure than they currently get,particularly 3,6 & 7,which really are worthy of concert hall exposure. (Although,no doubt they'd attract the usual flak from the trend conscious critics!)
 
PS: He's still not as good as Copland,Piston,Schuman or Diamond!!!! ;D

PPS: Apologies Dundonnell,I just saw you're reply!
« Last Edit: December 13, 2011, 06:40:45 AM by cilgwyn »

Offline cilgwyn

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #30 on: December 13, 2011, 07:36:28 AM »
I currently have Harris's Symphony 1933 (No1) on the headphones. I am inclined to think that this is actually one of Harris's best pre 'formula' symphonies! The textures & mood are a little more varied than some of his later symphonies,but I'n not sure if the inspiration isn't a tad uneven.

Regarding Naxos. Thank you for your reply,Dundonnell. I find some of Naxos's entries in their so called American Classics series bordering on the bizarre! Whatever Harris's supposed faults as a symphonist,his best work (most of it,probably!) has got to be way better than some of that junk. Although,there are some nuggets.

Their recent Henry Kimball Hadley release was a pleasant suprise & I only bought it because I was making a point about the quality of reviews (Andrew Clements v Musicweb) & the price,£1.26!
 
Equally wierd......actually,even wierder,is Albany records commitment to composers no one has ever heard of,while recordings of music by composers like David Diamond,Mennin and modern recordings of Piston are missing from the cd catalogue!
  Even wierder is Albany's commitment to the complete oeuvre of Don Gillis & frankly god awful recordings of Gilbert and Sullivan that no one except the tone deaf could possibly enjoy listening to (even if you like G & S!).

As to Harris's later output. I do have a certain sympathy for the poor fellow. Creativity IS hard work,in it's own way & I can feel for the poor sod,always trying to come up with something that would measure up to his eponymous third.
 
« Last Edit: December 13, 2011, 11:00:37 AM by cilgwyn »

Offline cilgwyn

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #31 on: December 13, 2011, 09:09:49 AM »
His Violin Concerto is rather nice & could very well be placed along side some of his best work along with the lovely 'Memories of a child's Sunday',which suggests that Roy Harris possibly did have a lighter side (and maybe,a sense of humour,too,somewhere?) after all. If only he could have produced more music in this vein!

I have now listened to his Second symphony. Not Harris at his best,but he was nearly there,with the third,next!

Next up: Johnny comes Marching home (good fun if memory serves me,correctly)
             Epilogue to Profiles in Courage:JFK (one of his best!)
             Concerto for two Piano's & orchestra
             Quintet for Piano & Strings
             Sonata for Violin & Piano
             String Quartet No3

After that,I think I'll chill out with some Walter Piston! ;D
             
« Last Edit: December 13, 2011, 10:57:39 AM by cilgwyn »

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #32 on: December 13, 2011, 12:28:42 PM »
I find myself in agreement with virtually everything you have written in these posts :)

The tragedy is that the only vaguely equivalent record company in the USA to the British Chandos, Hyperion and Dutton would be Albany(now that Delos has gone to the wall :() and, as you say, the Albany catalogue is totally bizarre :o The complete set of Don Gillis was quite extraordinary-he must be one of the poorest symphonists America has ever produced-and most of the composers featured in their catalogue are people one has never heard of.

It is so very sad at a time when so much undiscovered British music is being recorded that there are no integral sets of the symphonies of great American composers like Piston, Mennin or Diamond. Ok..we have got Hanson and Schuman from Naxos but that is about it.

Extraordinary :o
« Last Edit: December 13, 2011, 02:32:34 PM by Dundonnell »

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #33 on: December 13, 2011, 01:06:19 PM »
Symphony for Band

Has anyone heard this on a BayCities cd?


:btw,... I was listening to the last movement of the 'Mathis' symphony, and...woah!,... heard those familiar Harris harmonies in the strings. Listen close.
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Offline cilgwyn

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #34 on: December 13, 2011, 01:16:24 PM »
Indeed Dundonnell,we are very,very lucky here,by comparison. As to the Naxos Harris series,I see you are in agreement with me about Alsop's approach. I concur with you,almost totally. Alsop just doesn't seem to have any affinity for this music. In fact,despite my disappointment at the cancellation of the Naxos Harris cycle in favour of American Classics that no one's ever heard of (!) I almost feel a sense of relief that she won't be 'spoiling' any more! If Harris's best music is ever to get the kind of reappraisal it deserves it's not going to be through drab,by the number,read through's like that. Ok,I did say No 5 wasn't too bad,but even that was largely because I know the score from the old Louisville recording. I just wonder how I would have reacted to this music if this had been my first encounter? I don't think it would have helped! As to No3. I personally think it's the worst performance I've ever heard! In my opinion,of the two conductors Naxos employed,Kuchar was by far the better! At the risk of being called sexist,after listening to Alsop's recordings I couldn't help thinking of some of Bernstein's recordings of American music & wondering whether macho,muscular music of the kind Harris wrote does,perhaps,benefit somewhat from a man's touch! Having said that,my apologies to any women who might read this. It's more probably down to Alsops conducting! As simple as that!

As to Albany! Don Gillis? I mean,DON GILLIS?!!!! The mind boggles. I've got nothing against light music,but why the complete works of Don Gillis are more important to the cultural heritage of a nation than Harris,Piston,Diamond or Mennin,simply beggars belief. I mean,maybe one or even two Don Gillis cds (or none at all? : ;D),but the entire 'symphonic canon'? Dear G**! At least Leroy Anderson stuck to what he was good at.....waltzing cats!!!!!

Inc-c-c-credible! :o

Listening to Don Gillis's populistic symphonies only serves to remind me just how much better our own Malcolm Arnold was at doing exactly the same kind of thing. Incidentally,talking of the fusion of light & classical idioms,the Albany recording of Harris's Second is coupled with Morton Gould's interesting third symphony;one of his better efforts. In fact a bit of a suprise from this composer if you thought his inspiration was 'bitty'! (although I used to love his long deleted Varese Sarabande recording of his Latin American Symphonette). At one point Goulds orchestration actually manages to cleverly evoke a jazz combo style riff!

Also,if you like composers who fuse these idioms,George Antheil's symphonies have got to be at least a hundred times more interesting than those of Don Gillis. And incidentally,thank you to CPO (it's the thought that counts) for allowing me to collect them all in really first rate performances and recordings.

To be fair Gillis's 3rd & 6th are not bad & his Piano Concerto (I forget which one) IS rather nice. Oh,and some of his lighter pieces are quite good fun,IF you're in the right mood. In fact,I DO actually quite like his Star Spangled Symphony...........but (in a hushed,tremulous,whisper) the whole b***** lot?!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! :o

Finally,if Albany really DO want to spend money on a neglected composer who mixed popular and classical idioms in an interesting & often,genuinely inspiring way,why not record some more of the music of William Grant Still? They already have some of his music in their catalogue,including a recording of his one act opera,'Highway One'. I notice that he wrote a number of opera's which remain unrecorded &,drawing on a purely personal experience,his 'Afro American Symphony',in the Neeme Jarvi recording,had my elderly mum tapping her feet!

Or,better still,just record some more Harris,Piston,Diamond and Mennin! ;D

PS: I just pray Don Gillis's didn't write any opera's! I'm sure if Gillis did Albany will leave no stone unturned to record the whole lot!!! :o :o :o
« Last Edit: December 13, 2011, 02:57:57 PM by cilgwyn »

Offline cilgwyn

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #35 on: December 13, 2011, 03:00:58 PM »
Finally,to paraphrase something they often say on the Havergal Brian thread........back to Harris! ;D
 Oh,and while I'm at it,here is my list of Roy Harris's best music. This is the result of my Harris marathon. I have placed each piece of music in order of merit ie the best (in my opinion) first,followed by second best & so on.........

THE BEST:

1) Symphony 3
2) Symphony 6
3) Symphony 7 (although,I'm tempted to put No 5 here!)
4) Symphony 5
5) Epilogue to Profiles in Courage: JFK
6) Violin Concerto (Although,I need to listen to it a bit more)

All the above are,in my opinion, imposing,grand,stirring,serene,beautiful & exciting in turn. I believe that any one of these works would be welcome additions to the concert hall repertory in the US & over here.

RUNNERS UP IN ORDER OF MERIT:

6) Memories of a child's Sunday
7) Symphony No 9
8) Symphony No 11 (Incidentally,I have no idea how that 'emoticon' got there!!!)
9) Symphony No 8


Not entirely sure about Symphony 1933,yet. I need to listen to it more. No's 8 & 11 have some intriguing sonorities & some of Roy Harris's most ear ticklingly original orchestration. I really DO like his use of the piano in these compositions. On a more negative level,they do seem more like extended orchestral tone poems than symphonies,but in their favour,interesting ones. Perhaps,in a way,Harris did actually succeed in doing something a little different here. To my mind,of the two, the eleventh works best.

THE WEAKEST:

10) Symphony No 2

I also rather enjoyed his Concerto for two Piano's & orchestra,especially that rollicking finale & his chamber music is worth listening to. As to 'Johnny Comes Marching home!' Well,that's fun & Harris cerainly creates some entertaining mileage out of it,fair play! ;D

To sum up: Superficially,there is a certain sameness in approach,but the more I dig in to these symphonies & some of the other compositions I have listened to,the more individuality I find in these works & just a few of them are,in my humble opinion,very fine compositions indeed! At the same time,given a push,I would still place Copland,Piston,Schuman,Diamond,Mennin and Barber on a higher level because of their far wider range of emotion & creative expression (particularly Copland & Barber,there just IS no comparison!) But I have to admit (tut! tut!) I DO like some of this music quite allot! :) I also know that allot of people find his output,beyond No 3,mind numbingly boring! ;D

OK,as Zebedee used to say  :o time for bed!
« Last Edit: December 13, 2011, 04:38:45 PM by cilgwyn »

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #36 on: December 13, 2011, 08:59:49 PM »
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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #37 on: December 13, 2011, 09:39:48 PM »
I appreciate the ongoing discussion of Harris's music. I need to spend more time with it. I recall hearing Symphony No. 3 many times but it still has yet to make it's mark on me. I also have heard his Violin Concerto which had some nice parts. I don't remember much else. I have two Harris recordings on Naxos and a few on Albany and one on First Choice. I'll have to dig them back out. I do want to buy the Alsop recording of the 5th and 6th symphonies on Naxos. I'll probably buy it in my next haul which will include many Naxos new releases and Havergal Brian's Gothic on Hyperion.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2011, 10:05:12 PM by Mirror Image »
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Offline lescamil

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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #38 on: December 13, 2011, 10:40:35 PM »
Harris is a composer I've tried and tried again with, and he just doesn't do it for me. Granted, it might be a premature assessment, for the only piece I'm totally familiar with is the third symphony (despite having other recordings), and, to me, Schuman and Persichetti's respective third symphonies blow it out of the water. It just doesn't have the bite that his American symphonist colleagues have in their essays in the same genre. Maybe I'm just missing something?
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  • Rued Langgaard (1893 - 1952)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
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Re: Roy Harris (1898-1979)
« Reply #39 on: December 13, 2011, 11:00:42 PM »
Harris is a composer I've tried and tried again with, and he just doesn't do it for me. Granted, it might be a premature assessment, for the only piece I'm totally familiar with is the third symphony (despite having other recordings), and, to me, Schuman and Persichetti's respective third symphonies blow it out of the water. It just doesn't have the bite that his American symphonist colleagues have in their essays in the same genre. Maybe I'm just missing something?

Schuman does absolutely nothing for me. I haven't heard Persichetti's music yet, so I don't know what I'm gaining/missing there. But I agree with your overall assessment of Harris. His music does lack a certain edge that can easily be found in Copland, Barber, Piston, Ives (especially the 4th symphony and Holidays). My general problem with Harris is the music sounds like it doesn't have much purpose and it just kind of meanders along with no kind of memorable themes, rhythms, or harmonies. I'm left thinking "Okay, what did I just hear?"

Perhaps the more knowledgeable Harris admirers here can tell me why they enjoy his music and what makes it unique?
“I really would like to go to Marmorkirken. It was there that I heard music for the first time, and that experience is like a heavenly vision for me.” - Rued Langgaard