GMG Classical Music Forum

The Music Room => Composer Discussion => Topic started by: snyprrr on March 17, 2012, 08:47:53 PM

Title: Harbison's Harbor
Post by: snyprrr on March 17, 2012, 08:47:53 PM
Sorry, I just had to coup the Thread Title! :-[ ;D

I first heard him through that Emerson Quartet's album 'American Contemporaries' (which is, frankly, quite a slog, no?), and, though I know his music is broken down into multiple movements with titles like 'Aria', I so disliked that whole album I couldn't tell you what it sounded like, beyond of course the Modern American pedigree.

I also have the Blomstedt album of Sessions and Harbison, containg his Second Symphony and Oboe Converto. These again are broken down into fairly Neo-Classical movement headings (I believe there's another 'Aria'), and, as I recall, these pieces pose no problems (especially with such a fine presentation!@).

Frankly, the guy with his 'stache, just reminds me of Kevin Costner or something, just such a University Professor cool guy, who wins prizes but doesn't end up in the Library.

What am I missing? (not going to be into vocal works like Flight Into Egypt)

Title: Re: Harbison's Harbor
Post by: snyprrr on March 17, 2012, 08:49:55 PM
Isn't he the epitome of a Composer wearing a polo shirt or something? ???
Title: Re: Harbison's Harbor
Post by: snyprrr on March 18, 2012, 07:07:10 AM
No one? Not one?

ok, maybe Harbison sucks that much. ???
Title: Re: Harbison's Harbor
Post by: springrite on March 18, 2012, 07:15:19 AM
He was composer-in-residence at LAP when Giulini was MD, so I got to hear quite a few premieres of his works, as well I bought a few recordings because of it. The first one, Ulysis's Bow, was a bore. Subsequent works weren't better. The symphony CD you mentioned was the first one that I liked, though you pointed out its deficiencies. The better work I heard from him was a Concerto for English Horn, but it is still far from a masterpiece. No doubt about his competence as a technician, and I have no doubt he'd give wonderful lectures. But I don't supposed I'd rush out to get tickets for a future premiere or a new CD.

I should add:

I hear little inspiration from his music. Because of his apparent skill as a composer, I hear no perspiration, which sometimes strangely can be a plus.
Title: Re: Harbison's Harbor
Post by: lescamil on March 18, 2012, 09:40:20 AM
I've actually been following some of his recent premieres. A lot of his orchestral music seems to have a very cold quality to it and I was beginning to give up on him a bit. Then I heard his latest two symphonies, both of which have vocal parts, and I really liked what I heard. His colder harmonies actually work very well and his text setting is quite effective. It also helped that these symphonies were sung by some great singers, such as Gerald Finley, who sung the 5th symphony. I've actually come around a bit to his other pieces after getting my feet wet with his vocal works.
Title: Re: Harbison's Harbor
Post by: not edward on March 18, 2012, 10:21:09 AM
I've never been super-enthusiastic about anything that I've heard that far--probably I liked the Blomstedt disc with the 2nd symphony and oboe concerto best and should revisit it some time.

I see that the two piano sonatas are getting an airing in Toronto next week and will be trying to go hear them if possible.
Title: Re: Harbison's Harbor
Post by: snyprrr on March 18, 2012, 07:42:02 PM
Thank you all for your honest assessments. Perhaps he IS one of "those" Composers we mean when we talk about the endless stream of "academic" Composers that proliferated after the War? Names like Martino,... well, I don't want to go on a bend.

I just went through 11 Pages of Harbison on Amazon, and, the Chamber Music for strings and winds seems to make good companions for other things, perhaps his brass works. Otherwise, It's Academic! Might try the SQs and Piano Quintet.
Title: Re: Harbison's Harbor
Post by: Szykneij on March 19, 2012, 01:02:51 PM
Might try the SQs

I have this CD which I enjoy.

Title: Re: Harbison's Harbor
Post by: Szykneij on March 19, 2012, 04:47:55 PM
I just revisited this one. There's some delightful material here.  All piano/flute, piano/violin (featuring Harbison's wife, Rose Mary), or piano/soprano selections. The flute and violin pieces are more to my taste, but that's mostly personal bias than anything else. This recording can be picked up very cheaply on Amazon -- maybe a good place to start for someone beginning to explore his work.
Title: Re: Harbison's Harbor
Post by: snyprrr on March 20, 2012, 06:08:48 AM
I noticed a looooot of vocal settings on Amazon.

I will endeavor to pull out that Blomstedt disc later.
Title: Re: Harbison's Harbor
Post by: Brian on April 02, 2015, 08:42:26 AM
There's a new Boston Symphony self-released album of Harbison's first two symphonies, conducted by James Levine!