John Harbison
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John Harbison

John Harris Harbison (born December 20, 1938) is an American composer, known for his symphonies, operas, and large choral works.

Life

John Harris Harbison was born on December 20, 1938, in Orange, New Jersey, to the historian Elmore Harris Harbison and Janet German Harbison. The Harbisons were a musical family; Elmore had studied composition in his youth and Janet wrote songs.[1] Harbison's sisters Helen and Margaret were musicians as well. He won the prestigious BMI Foundation's Student Composer Awards for composition at the age of 16 in 1954. He studied music at Harvard University (BA 1960), where he sang with the Harvard Glee Club, and later at the Berlin Musikhochschule and at Princeton (MFA 1963). He is an Institute Professor of music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a former student of Walter Piston and Roger Sessions. His works include several symphonies, string quartets, and concerti for violin, viola, and double bass.

He won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1987 for The Flight into Egypt, and in 1989 he received a $305,000 MacArthur Fellowship.[2] In 1998 he was awarded the 4th Annual Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities.[3] He was awarded the Harvard Arts Medal in 2000.[4] In 2006 a recording of his Mottetti di Montale was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Small Ensemble Performance category.

The Metropolitan Opera commissioned Harbison's The Great Gatsby to celebrate James Levine's 25th anniversary with the company. The opera premiered on December 20, 1999, conducted by Levine and starring Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Susan Graham, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Mark Baker, Dwayne Croft, and Richard Paul Fink.

In 1991, Harbison was the Music Director of the Ojai Music Festival in conjunction with Peter Maxwell Davies.

Harbison was jointly commissioned by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue to write a piece for the "Papal Concert of Reconciliation." The event was co-officiated by the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rav Elio Toaff, the Imam of the Mosque of Rome, Abdulawahab Hussein Gomaa, and Pope John Paul II. Abraham, a six-minute composition for brass and antiphonal choirs, had its world premiere on January 17, 2004, performed by members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and a choir made up of members of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, the London Philharmonic Choir, the Krakow Philharmonic Choir, and the Ankara Polyphonic Choir, under the baton of Sir Gilbert Levine.

Harbison was previously the principal guest conductor for Emmanuel Music in Boston; after founding director Craig Smith's untimely death in 2007, Harbison was named Acting Artistic Director.

When asked in 1990 for his "artistic credo", Harbison replied: "to make each piece different from the others, to find clear, fresh large designs, to reinvent traditions."

He is married to violinist Rose Mary Harbison (née Pederson).

Discography (Incomplete)

  • Mirabai Songs / Variations (1987). Northeastern Records NR 230-CD. Performed by Janice Felty, mezzo-soprano, Collage New Music Ensemble, conducted by John Harbison -- Rose Mary Harbison, violin; David Satz, clarinet; Ursula Oppens, piano. Tracks 1-6: Mirabai Songs, text from Mirabai Versions by Robert Bly. Tracks 7-10: Variations, for violin, clarinet, and piano. Track Listing:
  1. I. It's True, I Went to the Market
  2. II. All I Was Doing Was Breathing
  3. III. Why Mira Can't Go Back to Her Old House
  4. IV. Where Did You Go?
  5. V. The Clouds
  6. VI. Don't Go, Don't Go
  7. Variations i-v
  8. Variations vi-x
  9. Variations xi-xv
  10. Finale and Epilogue
  1. The Flight into Egypt, text from the King James translation of the story of the Flight into Egypt in the Gospel of Matthew
  2. The Natural World: Prelude
  3. Where We Must Look for Help, text from Robert Bly
  4. On the Road Home, text from Wallace Stevens
  5. Milkweed, text from James Wright
  6. Concerto for Double Brass Choir and Orchestra: I. Invention on a Motif: Tempo giusto
  7. II. Invention on a Chord: Cantabile
  8. III. Invention on a Cadence: Molto allegro
  • At First Light (1998). Archetype Records 60106. Performed by Lorraine Hunt, mezzo-soprano, Dawn Upshaw, soprano, Greenleaf Chamber Players, and Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Scott Yoo. Tracks:
  1. Due Libri dei Mottetti di Montale
  2. Snow Country
  3. Chorale Cantata
  4. Concerto for Oboe, Clarinet, and Strings
  • John Harbison: Ulysses' Bow / Samuel Chapter (2004). First Edition ASIN: B0002RQ35C. Tracks:
  1. Ulysses' Bow ballet performed by Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and conducted by André Previn
  2. Samuel Chapter performed by Susan Larson (soprano) and conducted by John Harbison
  • The Reawakening, String Quartet No. 3, Fantasia on a Ground, Thanks Victor (2001). Musica Omnia om0110. Lydian String Quartet, Dominique Labelle, soprano.
  • World Premiere Recordings: Violin Concerto, Recordare, Seven Motets (1997). Koch 3-7310-2-H1. Emmanuel Music, Craig Smith, conductor, Rose-Mary Harbison, violin.
  • Sessions: Symphony No. 2; Harbison: Symphony No. 2, Oboe Concerto (1994). london 443 376-2. San Francisco Symphony, Herbert Bloomstedt, conductor, William Bennet, oboe.
  • String Quartet No.1/String Quartet No. 2/November 19, 1828 (1992). Lydian String Quartet, Yehudi Wyner, piano.
  • Simple Daylight/Words from Patterson/Piano Quintet, (1999). Electra Nonesuch 79189-2. Boston Symphony Chamber Players, Gilbert Kalish, piano, Sanford Sylvan, baritone, Dawn Upshaw, soprano.
  • Four Psalms/Emerson (2004). New World Records 80613-2. Cantata Singers and Ensemble, David Hoose, conductor.
  • Mottetti di Montale (2005). Koch KIC-CD-7545. Collage New Music, David Hoose, music director, Janice Felty and Margaret Lattimore mezzo-sopranos.
  • Four Songs of Solitude/Variations/Twilight Music (2003) Naxos. Daniel Blumenthal, Jannine Jansen, Lars Wouters van der Oudenweijer, Bernhard Krug, Spectrum Concerts Berlin.

Works

Opera

Ballet

  • Ulysses (1983)

Orchestral

  • Incidental Music from The Merchant of Venice (1971), for string orchestra
  • Elegiac Songs (1974), for mezzo-soprano & chamber orchestra
    commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation
  • Diotima (1976)
    commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress
  • Piano Concerto (1978), for piano & chamber orchestra
    commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra for Robert Miller
  • Snow Country (1979), for oboe & string orchestra
    commissioned by Dr. Maurice Pechet, New England Arts Patron
  • Violin Concerto (1978-80), for violin & chamber orchestra

Choral

  • In Spiritu: Prayer (1955), for a cappella male-voice choir
  • Ave Maria (1959), for a cappella S.S.A.A. choir
  • He Shall Not Cry (1959), for S.A. choir & organ
  • Five Songs of Experience (1971), for S.A.T.B. choir, two percussion & string quartet
    commissioned by the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Boston for the Cantata Singers
  • Music When Soft Voices Die (1966), for S.A.T.B. choir & harpsichord or organ
    commissioned by the Cantata Singers
  • Nunc Dimittis (1975), for T.B. choir & piano
    commissioned by the Harvard Glee Club
  • The Flower-Fed Buffaloes (1976), for baritone solo, S.S.A.T.B.B. choir & instrumental ensemble
    commissioned by the New York State Bar Association
  • The Flight into Egypt (1986), for soprano, baritone soli, S.A.T.B. choir & chamber orchestra
    commissioned by the Cantata Singers
  • Two Emmanuel Motets (1990), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
    commissioned by the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Boston
  • Ave Verum Corpus (1991), for a cappella S.S.A.T.B. choir
    commissioned by the Emmanuel Choir, Boston and the Ojai Festival
  • O Magnum Mysterium (1991/92), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
    commissioned by Saturday Evening Brass
  • Veni Creator Spiritus (1992), for a cappella T.B. choir
    commissioned by the Rosalind Denny Lewis Music Library at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Communion Words (1994), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
  • Concerning Them Which Are Asleep (1994), for a cappella S.S.A.T.B.B. choir
  • Emerson (1995), a cappella S.A.T.B. double choir
    commissioned by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music for their 100th anniversary (1995)
  • Juste Judex (1995), for mezzo-soprano, baritone soli, S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
    commissioned as part of the Requiem of Reconciliation
  • Evening (Der Abend) (1997), for a cappella S.A.T.B. double choir
  • Four Psalms (1998), for S.A.T.B. soli, S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
    commissioned by the Israeli Consulate for the Chicago Symphony
  • Psalm 137 (1998), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
  • Requiem (1985-2002), for S.A.T.B. soli, S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra
    commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra
  • We do not live to ourselves (2002), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
  • Abraham (2004), for double S.A.T.B. choir & two large brass choirs
    commissioned for the Papal Concert of Reconciliation in Rome for the Ankara Polyphonic Choir, London Philharmonic Choir, Krakow Philharmonic Choir and musicians from the Pittsburgh Symphony
  • Charity Never Faileth (2004), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
  • Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (2004), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
  • My Little Children, Let Us Not Love in Word (2004), for a cappella S.A.T.B. choir
    commissioned by the Cantata Singers
  • But Mary Stood (2005), for soprano solo, choir & string orchestra
    commissioned by the Cantata Singers
  • Umbrian Landscape with Saint (2005), for optional choir & chamber ensemble
    commissioned by the Chicago Chamber Musicians
  • A Clear Midnight (2007), for T.T.B.B. choir & five strings
    commissioned by the Georgina Joshi Foundation for Indiana University and the Pro Arte Singers
  • Madrigal (2007), for a cappella S.A.T.B.B. choir
    commissioned by the New York Virtuoso Singers
  • The Pool (2010), for S.A.T.B. choir & piano
  • Koussevitzky Said: Choral Scherzo with Orchestra (2012), for S.A.T.B. choir & orchestra: commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Tanglewood Music Festival
  • The Supper at Emmaus (2013), for S.A.T.B. choir, two oboes, bassoon, organ and string orchestra
  • Never Time (2015), for jazz choir and jazz band
  • Psalm 116 (2016), for a cappella S.S.S.A.A.A.T.T.T.B.B.B. choir
    commissioned by Chanticleer

Chamber

  • Andante con moto (1955), for cello & piano
  • Duo (1961), for flute & piano
  • Canzonetta (1962), for bassoon quartet
  • Confinement (1965), for twelve players
    written for the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble and Arthur Weisberg
  • Four Preludes from "December Music" (1967), for flute, violin (or flute or oboe) & oboe (or flute or clarinet)
  • Serenade (1968), for flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, violin, viola & cello
  • Piano Trio (1969), for violin, cello & piano
  • Bermuda Triangle (1970), for tenor saxophone, electric organ & amplified cello
    commissioned by the New York Camerata
  • Die Kurze (1970), for flute, clarinet, piano, violin & cello
    commissioned by the New York Composer's Forum
  • Snow Country (1979), for oboe & string quintet
    commissioned by Dr. Maurice Pechet
  • Wind Quintet (1979), for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn & bassoon
    commissioned by the Naumburg Foundation
  • Due Libri (1980), for mezzo-soprano & nine players
    commissioned by the New York Philomusica and Robert Levin
  • Mottetti di Montale (1980), for mezzo-soprano & nine players or piano
    commissioned by New York Philomusica, the University of Oregon and Collage
  • Organum for Paul Fromm (1981), for glockenspiel, marimba, vibraphone, harpsichord & piano
    commissioned by the University of Chicago
  • Piano Quintet (1981), for two violins, viola, cello & piano
    commissioned by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
  • Exequien for Calvin Simmons (1982), for seven players
  • Overture: Michael Kohlhaas (1982), for twelve brass
  • Variations (1982), for clarinet, violin & piano
    commissioned by Frank Taplin for the Token Creek Festival, Wisconsin
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1985), for two violins, viola & cello
    commissioned by the Cleveland Quartet
  • Twilight Music (1985), for horn, violin & piano
    commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
  • Fanfare for Foley's (1986), for twelve brass & two percussion
  • Music for Eighteen Winds (1986)
    commissioned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • String Quartet No. 2 (1987), for two violins, viola & cello
  • Two Chorale Preludes for Advent (from "Christmas Vespers") (1987), for brass quintet
  • Fantasy-Duo (1988), for violin & piano
    commissioned by the McKim Fund in the Library of Congress for David Abel and Julie Steinberg
  • Little Fantasy on "The Twelve Days of Christmas" (1988), for brass quintet
  • November 19, 1828 (1988), for violin, viola, cello & piano
    commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts for the Atlanta Chamber Players, the Da Capo Chamber Players and Voices of Change
  • Fanfares and Reflection (1990), for two violins
    commissioned by Token Creek Festival
  • Fourteen Fabled Folksongs (1992), for violin & marimba
  • Prelude (1993), for cello & piano
  • String Quartet No. 3 (1993), for two violins, viola & cello
  • San Antonio (1994), for alto saxophone & piano
  • Thanks Victor (1994), for string quartet
    commissioned by the Lydian Quartet
  • Trio Sonata (1994), for three clarinets or three saxophones or oboe, cor Anglais & bassoon or string trio
  • Fanfare for a Free Man (1997), for three oboes & three bassoons
  • La Primavera di Sottoripa (1998), for mezzo-soprano & nine players
    commissioned by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
  • North and South (2000), for soprano/mezzo-soprano & seven players
    written for Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
  • Six American Painters (2000), for flute/oboe, violin, viola & cello
    commissioned by the radio station WGUC Cincinnati
  • Chaconne (2001), for flute, clarinet, violin, cello & piano
  • String Quartet No. 4 (2002), for two violins, viola & cello
    commissioned by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
  • Cucaraccia and Fugue (2003), for four violas
    commissioned by the Token Creek Festival
  • Trio II. (2003), for violin, cello & piano
    commissioned by the Harris Foundation, Chamber Music America and Meet the Composer for the Amelia Trio
  • Songs America Loves to Sing (2004), for flute, clarinet, piano, violin & cello
    commissioned by the Atlanta Chamber Players and the Da Capo Chamber Players
  • Abu Ghraib (2006), for cello & piano
    commissioned by the Rockport Festival for Rhonda Rider and David Deveau
  • Deep Dances (2006), for cello & double bass
    commissioned by the Bank of America Celebrity Series for Rebecca Rice
  • French Horn Suite (2006), for four French horns
    commissioned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Cortège: in memoriam Donald Sur (2008), for percussion sextet
    commissioned by the New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble
  • Diamond Watch (2010), for two pianos
    commissioned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Priscilla Myrick Diamond for Peter Diamond and pianist Robert Levin
  • Finale, Presto (2011), for two violins, viola & cello
  • Sonata No. 1 (2011), for violin & piano
  • String Quartet No. 5 (2011), for two violins, viola & cello
    written in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Pro Arte Quartet
  • Crossroads (2012), for soprano or mezzo-soprano, oboe, two violins, viola, cello & double bass or oboe & string orchestra
  • Invention on a Theme of William Shakespeare (2012), for solo cello, two violins, viola & double bass
  • The Right to Pleasure (2013), for mezzo-soprano, two violins, viola, cello & double bass or piano
  • String Trio (2013), for violin, viola & cello
    commissioned by Camerata Pacifica audience members
  • The Cross of Snow (2015), for countertenor & four violas da gamba or two violins, viola & cello
    commissioned by William John Wartmann in memory of Joyce Frances Wartmann
  • Presences (2015), for cello solo, two violins, viola, cello & double bass
    commissioned by Charles Felsenthal in memory of David Anderson
  • Mark the Date (2016), for flute & piano
    commissioned by Asadour Santourian
  • The Nine Rasas (2016), for clarinet, viola & piano
  • String Quartet No. 6 (2016), for two violins, viola & cello
    commissioned by the Lark Quartet, Telegraph Quartet and Tanglewood Music Center
  • IF (monodrama for soprano and ensemble) (2017), for soprano & eight players
    commissioned by Boston Musica Viva for the 50th anniversary of Boston Musica Viva, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
  • Sonata for Viola and Piano (2018), for viola & piano
    commissioned anonymously in honor of John Harbison's 80th birthday

Vocal

  • Autumnal (1964), for alto & piano
  • Cantata III (1968), for soprano, two violins, viola & cello
  • Moments of Vision (1975), for soprano & tenor doubling handbells, alto recorder/sopranino recorder/bass recorder/alto krumhorn, lute/hurdy-gurdy/dulcimer & gamba
  • Samuel Chapter (1978), for high voice (woman or boy) & six players
  • Due Libri (1980), for mezzo-soprano & nine players
    commissioned by the New York Philomusica and Robert Levin
  • Mottetti di Montale (1980), for mezzo-soprano & nine players or piano
    commissioned by New York Philomusica, the University of Oregon and Collage
  • Mirabai Songs (1982), for soprano/mezzo-soprano & eight players or piano
  • December 1 (1995), for mezzo-soprano & chamber orchestra
  • La Primavera di Sottoripa (1998), for mezzo-soprano & nine players
    commissioned by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
  • Il Saliscendi Bianco (1999), for mezzo-soprano & nine players
    commissioned by Collage
  • North and South (2000), for soprano/mezzo-soprano & seven players
    written for Lorraine Hunt Lieberson
  • Ain't Goin' to Study War No More (2003), for baritone, two trumpets, snare drum & string orchestra
  • Milosz Songs (2006), for soprano & orchestra
  • Closer to My Own Life (2011), for mezzo-soprano & chamber orchestra
  • Crossroads (2012), for soprano or mezzo-soprano, oboe, two violins, viola, cello & double bass or oboe & string orchestra
    commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for Dawn Upshaw
  • Seven Poems of Lorine Niedecker (2015), for soprano & piano
    composed in honor of the Tanglewood Music Center's 75th anniversary
  • IF (monodrama for soprano and ensemble) (2017), for soprano & eight players
    commissioned by Boston Musica Viva in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Boston Musica Viva, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Solo

  • Sonata for Viola Alone (1961)
  • Amazing Grace (1972), for oboe
    commissioned by oboist Philip West
  • Four Occasional Pieces (1978), for piano
    written for André Previn, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and in memory of John Boros, respectively
  • Parody-Fantasia (1980), for piano
    adapted from December Music
  • Four Songs of Solitude (1985), for violin
    written for the composer's wife, Rose Mary Harbison
  • Four More Occasional Pieces (1987), for piano
    written for Joan Tower, Harriet Thiele, Rose Mary Harbison and Milo Feinberg, respectively
  • Sonata No. 1 - In Memoriam Roger Sessions (1987), for piano
    commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts for Robert Shannon, Ursula Oppens and Alan Feinberg
  • Suite (1993), for cello
  • Trio Sonata (1994), for piano or harpsichord or fortepiano or electric keyboard
    commissioned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Gatsby Etudes (1999), for piano
  • A Violist's Notebook, Book 1 (1998-2000), for viola
  • Sonata No. 2 (2001), for piano
    commissioned by G. Schirmer Associated Music for Robert Levin, to whom the work is dedicated
  • A Violist's Notebook, Book 2 (2002), for viola
  • Montale Sketches (2002), for piano
    after three poems by Eugenio Montale
  • Ten Micro-Waltzes (2004), for piano
  • Leonard Stein Anagrams (2009)
    written for Leonard Stein
  • For Violin Alone (2014), for violin
    commissioned by 92nd Street Y
  • Painting the Flowers Blue (2015), for violin
  • A Bag of Tails (2016), for piano
  • Nocturne (2018), for piano
    commissioned in honor of Linda Reichert's tenure as Artistic Director of Network for New Music
  • Passage (2019), for piano
  • Suite for Solo Violin, on soggetti cavati (2019), for violin

References

  1. ^ [1] Obituary of Janet G. H. Penfield. Town Topics, January 28, 2004.
  2. ^ Harbison wins MacArthur fellowship
  3. ^ The Heinz Awards, John Harbison profile
  4. ^ "History of the Harvard Arts Medal". Harvard University Office for the Arts. Retrieved 2019.
  5. ^ "Ten O'Clock News; John Harbison," 1984-03-22, 4:20, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 23, 2016.

Additional resources

  • Harbison, John. "Six Tanglewood Talks (1,2,3)." Perspectives of New Music 23, no. 2 (Spring-Summer 1985): 12-22.
  • Harbison, John. "Six Tanglewood Talks (4,5,6)." Perspectives of New Music, 24, no.1 (Autumn-Winter 1985): 46-60.
  • Harbison, John. "Symmetries and the New Tonality." Contemporary Music Review 6, no. 2 (1992): 71-79.

External links


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