The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Boston Symphony to do a two-season retrospective of John Harbison’s symphonies

April 17, 2010
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is in the news these days largely because its music director and conductor James Levine, who also leads the Metropolitan Opera, will be out for quite a while again due to health concerns — this time, back surgery for a herniated disc.

But what struck in the announcement of its 2010-11 season is the two-season John Harbison retrospective the BSO is planning to do. (Harbison teaches at MIT in Cambridge, which is near to Boston.)

Here is a link to the announcement:

I wonder whether Levine’s problems might jeopardize that., Levine, after all, is a big fan of Harbison and commissioned several works, including the opera “The Great Gatsby” from Harbison.

And John Harbison is also a local figure since he and his wife violinist Rose Mary Harbison share a farm in Token Creek, near Madison where every summer they co-direct the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival in late August.

Harbison is hands-down the calmest, clearest and most articulate explainer of classical music I have ever heard.

Here is a YouTube video of an interview with John Harbison for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which premiered his Requiem.

Maybe the Madison Symphony Orchestra could schedule a Harbison symphony or two. It would be a winner on two counts: it’s contemporary music with local interest who has own both the Pulitzer prize and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.

There are a lot of Harbison videos, most with music, on YouTube.

Here is another Harbison video, with famed American soprano Dawn Upshaw singing in “The Great Gatsby”:

Do you know John Harbison’s works?

Do you have  favorite?

Do you think the Madison Symphony Orchestra or some other local groups perform more of Harbison’s works?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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