The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: More news from Madison – composer John Harbison is busy and The Ear tops 100,000

November 28, 2010
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By Jacob Stockinger

As I noted in last Friday’s post, last week was a busy week, full of news for classical music fans in Madison.

Here are two more tidbits:


During a pre-concert talk for the Madison Symphony Orchestra last Sunday afternoon, the prize-winning composer John Harbison (below), who has local ties, let some cats out of the bag.

He’s being a busy man. Indeed, that same day, he was at the MSO for his “Great Gatsby” Suite and then at the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra concert for his homage to the jazz great Mary Lou Williams.

But much, much more is in store.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra under James Levine, a Harbison fan who commissioned his opera “The Great Gatsby,” will do two-year retrospective of all Harbison’s symphonies. The BSO says that means six symphonies – that in turn means Harbison is now composing a sixth one for the series since he has five symphonies to his credit.

He is also composing a major string quartet (No. 5) for the centennial year of the UW’s Pro Arte String Quartet (below, in a photo by Katrin Talbot), one that is apparently based on medieval chant or sounds.

He will also be composing a violin and piano work for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

He notes that the Token Creek Chamber Festival for next hasn’t yet set its schedule. But he and his violinist wife Rosemary Harbison who are co-director are leaning toward a mixed concert of J.S.Bach (The Ear is betting another Brandenburg Concerto is in store) and will do some more Haydn piano trios, a cycle the festival has been exploring.

All that, and Harbison still talks about music with more succinctness, accessibility and insight than anyone else The Ear has ever heard. I would love to see Harbison do a Leonard Bernstein-type book about the major aspects of the major composers.

Not that he is busy doing other things.


Finally, let it be noted that this past week, The Well-Tempered Ear passed the 100,000 mark — with the help of readers form around the world and without being affiliated with any newspaper or magazine.

That’s a lot of hits in 15 months. Please feel free to pass along any tips for stories and reviews and well as suggestions for what you want to read. And of course pass along the blog address and subscription widget to others.

And, dear readers, thank you, thank you.

Posted in Classical music

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