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Roy Harris: Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4 "Folksong Symphony"

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Customer Reviews

Roy Harris Symphonies 3 and 4

Marin Alsop and the Coloerado Symphony (and Chorus in the 4th) give wonderful performances of these lovely pieces of American art. Roy Harris has slipped from the pantheon of American composers. Once he was spoken of with Copland and Barber, but today seems more provincial, less certain of his talents. But this reputation is unfair. Harris is a more than "interesting" representative of the American symphonists of the 1930-50s, with their distinctly folk-influenced tone. And what delightful music is here! The 3rd Symphony was a specialty of Alsop's mentor Leonard Bernstein and she gives this tightly composed single movement work a taut, and powerful performance with clearly commited support from the Colorado Symphony (the former Denver Symphony Orchestra reorganized after bankruptcy). The rarely heard 4th Symphony is really a cantata built on classic American folk songs. There was a fine reading of this piece recorded in the 1960s by the Utah Symphony and this is a far better recorded and worthy successor. The Colorado Symphony Chorus sings with polish and clear diction, which is appreciated since there are (obviously) no texts included with this very fairly-priced download. Highly recommended for lovers of Copland's "Americana" style.

The best "Third Symphony" yet

Roy Harris, like George Gershwin before him, was unlike anyone else who came before him and no one who came after has yet taken his place. Although nominally identified with Copland, he actually came at music composition from a non-standard background and was not poisoned by the strait-laced ideologues of music education. That is not to say he was a "pure natural" composer - he became a highly respected professor of music - it's just that his mind was more open to ideas than his more conservative colleagues. His music makes free use of so-called "jazz idioms" and other vernacular sources that gives his music a distinctly American color - simple, direct, and deep at the same time. It is a shame that he has lapsed into shadow since his death and his music is definitely worth a closer look. The "Third Symphony" is an outstanding work full of a suprising range of emotions from the solemnity of the opening plainsong melody, the gaiety of the pastorale section, the conflict and drama of the fugue section (which, on the music, due to a copyists quirk, appears to marked in 36/24 time but actually is 3/2 - 6/4), to the tragic pathos of the conclusion. It is a difficult work to record, both in terms of technical challenges for the musicians and interpretive challenges for the conductor. Marin Alsop and the Colorado Symphony have done wonders - if you are looking for the perfect recording of this Symphony, this is the one to buy. By contrast, the "Folksong Symphony" is a very different slice of musical color - lighter in mood but just as wonderful to listen to. As recordings of Harris's "other" works are very hard to come by, there is little to compare this one too, but it, like the "Third," shows a masterful touch in its presentation. Oh yes - for those who care about such things - this recording of the "Third Symphony" is unabridged/uncut. Very tasty and enjoyable!

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Roy Harris: Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4 "Folksong Symphony", Colorado Symphony
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  • $7.99
  • Genres: Classical, Music
  • Released: Jul 25, 2006

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