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John Harbison

December 20, 1938 -
born in Orange, NJ, composed during the Contemporary period
John Harris Harbison is among the most prominent and prolific of American composers; his highly varied and interesting output has earned him the moniker, "the great master of ambiguity." His principal works include three string quartets, three symphonies, the cantata The Flight Into Egypt (Pulitzer Prize, 1987), and three operas, including The Great Gatsby (commissioned by The Metropolitan Opera -- premiered there, 1999).

Harbison was born in Orange, NJ, on December 20, 1938, and grew up in Princeton. While a teenager he received musical guidance from Roger Sessions, one of his formative influences, while also developing considerable skills as a jazz pianist. Other of Harbison's teachers include Walter Piston at Harvard, Boris Blacher at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, and Earl Kim at Princeton. As influential as any teacher was Harbison's marriage to violinist Rose Mary Pederson -- the inspiration for many of his violin pieces. Since 1969, he has been professor of music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, necessitating his becoming a "summer composer." More than 30 of his compositions have been recorded on the Nonesuch, Northeastern, Harmonia Mundi, New World, Decca, Koch, Centaur, Archetype, and CRI labels. His music is published exclusively by Associated Music Publishers.

Exceptional economy and expressive range mark Harbison's music. His works embrace elements of jazz as well as the early and late Baroque styles of Heinrich Schütz and J. S. Bach. At times, the harmonic palette brings to mind the sound of Prokofiev or the rigorous serialism of 1950s Stravinsky. He is also a practiced writer on the art and craft of composition, and was recognized in his student years as an outstanding poet, later writing the libretto for his The Great Gatsby.

Harbison's music first garnered national attention with the Boston Symphony Orchestra's 1976 premiere of Diotima, a commission by the Koussevitzky Foundation. This, his first major work for orchestra, showed him an adept symphonic composer -- a talent that he then applied to a string of concerted works, such as his Piano Concerto (1978) (recipient of the 1980 Kennedy Center Friedheim Award), and the Violin Concerto (1978-1980, rev. 1987), written for and premiered by Rose Mary Harbison. Other concertos came later, including one for viola (1989), oboe (1991), cello (1993), and flute (1993).

Occasionally, as in The Most Often Used Chords (Gli accordi più usati) of 1993, Harbison enjoys putting compositional restrictions on himself to ignite his imagination. A great percentage of Harbison's works are for voice -- either solo, small ensemble, or large chorus; most notable among these are his Mirabai Songs (for soprano and percussion ensemble) and his operas, which (besides the aforementioned Gatsby) are: Full Moon In March (1977) and Winter's Tale (1974, rev. 1991).

Harbison has worked extensively as a conductor, particularly with the Cantata Singers (1969-1973) and the new-music group Collage (established in 1984). He is a champion of twentieth century music, especially composers he feels have been neglected, such as Luigi Dallapiccola. ~ John Palmer, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: John Harbison: Chamber Music

Title: North And South: Six Poems Of Elizabeth Bishop, For Mezzo-soprano & Chamber Ensemble

1. North And South: Six Poems Of Elizabeth Bishop, For Mezzo-soprano & Chamber Ensemble: I. Ballad For Billie

2. North And South: Six Poems Of Elizabeth Bishop, For Mezzo-soprano & Chamber Ensemble: II. Late Air

3. North And South: Six Poems Of Elizabeth Bishop, For Mezzo-soprano & Chamber Ensemble: III. Breakfast Song

4. North And South: Six Poems Of Elizabeth Bishop, For Mezzo-soprano & Chamber Ensemble: I. Ballad For Billie (II)

5. North And South: Six Poems Of Elizabeth Bishop, For Mezzo-soprano & Chamber Ensemble: II. Song

6. North And South: Six Poems Of Elizabeth Bishop, For Mezzo-soprano & Chamber Ensemble: III. 'Dear, My Compass...'

Title: Six American Painters, For Flute & String Trio

7. Six American Painters, For Flute & String Trio: I. Bingham

8. Six American Painters, For Flute & String Trio: II. Eakins

9. Six American Painters, For Flute & String Trio: III. Heade

10. Six American Painters, For Flute & String Trio: IV. Homer

11. Six American Painters, For Flute & String Trio: V. Hoffman

12. Six American Painters, For Flute & String Trio: VI. Diebenkorn

Title: The Three Wise Men, For Brass Quintet & Narrator (from Christmas Vespers),

13. The Three Wise Men, For Brass Quintet & Narrator (from Christmas Vespers),: Prelude

14. The Three Wise Men, For Brass Quintet & Narrator (from Christmas Vespers),: II

15. The Three Wise Men, For Brass Quintet & Narrator (from Christmas Vespers),: III

16. The Three Wise Men, For Brass Quintet & Narrator (from Christmas Vespers),: IV

17. The Three Wise Men, For Brass Quintet & Narrator (from Christmas Vespers),: V

18. The Three Wise Men, For Brass Quintet & Narrator (from Christmas Vespers),: VI

19. The Three Wise Men, For Brass Quintet & Narrator (from Christmas Vespers),: VII

20. The Three Wise Men, For Brass Quintet & Narrator (from Christmas Vespers),: Postlude

Title: Book Of Hours And Seasons, For Mezzo-soprano, Flute, Violoncello & Piano

21. Book Of Hours And Seasons, For Mezzo-soprano, Flute, Violoncello & Piano: I. Dem Aufgehenden Vollmond

22. Book Of Hours And Seasons, For Mezzo-soprano, Flute, Violoncello & Piano: II. Immer Und Uberall

23. Book Of Hours And Seasons, For Mezzo-soprano, Flute, Violoncello & Piano: III. Interlude: Jahreszeiten Kommen Wieder

24. Book Of Hours And Seasons, For Mezzo-soprano, Flute, Violoncello & Piano: IV. Mich Angstigt Das Verfangliche

25. Book Of Hours And Seasons, For Mezzo-soprano, Flute, Violoncello & Piano: V. Um Mitternacht

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chalk board sqweek noize, sucks

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