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Lou Harrison - A Portrait / Jekowsky, Al Jarreau, Et Al


Release Date: 02/06/2008 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 455590   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Lou HarrisonJohn Cage
Performer:  Al JarreauMaria BachmannBill BanovetzTimothy Day
Conductor:  Barry Jekowsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California SymphonyCalifornia Symphony members
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 19 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Following the success of those exemplary releases from MusicMasters devoted to Lou Harrison’s Second and Third Symphonies (5/93 and 5/95 respectively), Argo now offer us the Fourth (or Last Symphony, as the composer prefers to call it – though if he ever does complete a Fifth, he has already assured us that it will bear the title of “Very Last Symphony”!). Commissioned by the Brooklyn PO and Brooklyn Academy of Music, it was premiered in November 1990, since when Harrison has revised the work no less than four times; the (final) version recorded here dates from 1995.

Like its predecessors, the Last Symphony draws its curious compulsion from Harrison’s unique stylistic synthesis of Eastern and Western traditions spanning many
Read more centuries. The resulting timelessness lends his music a strongly communicative serenity (as exemplified by the Largo third movement), yet there’s also a trance-like concentration and fine craft which ensure that one’s attention rarely wavers. Of the symphony’s four movements, the last is the most immediately striking, featuring as it does a vocalist (here a characterful Al Jarreau) narrating three native-American (or Navajo, to be precise) “Coyote Stories” against a background of gamelan-like percussion sonorities. A similarly luminous, tintinnabulatory backcloth courses through the opening Largo, whereas the outer portions of the ensuing “Stampede” (one of the composer’s favourite terms, actually derived from the medieval dance known as the estampie) exhibit a pungent rhythmic ingenuity that can be traced back over 50 years to Harrison’s Double Music for percussion quartet (an exhilarating collaboration with John Cage dating from 1941, and the final item here).

Elsewhere, we are treated to six numbers from Solstice (one of a clutch of dance works Harrison completed whilst living in New York from 1943 to 1951), which imaginatively deploys an ensemble of flute, oboe, trumpet, two cellos, double-bass, tack-piano and celesta. The Concerto in slendro (1961) for violin, two tack-pianos, celesta and percussion was composed aboard a freighter bound for Tokyo (where Harrison attended the East-West Music Encounter Conference – his first trip to Asia, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation) and takes its name from a five-tone Indonesian mode. The collection kicks off with a touching Elegy written in just three days – August 22nd-24th, 1982 – inscribed to the memory of Calvin Simmons, the young conductor of the Oakland Symphony, and premiered a couple of days later at the Cabrillo Music Festival (a two-week event which also witnessed the first performance of Harrison’s Third Symphony).

I can report that performance- and production-values throughout are beyond reproach, and this uncommonly generous Argo anthology (which is also both expertly annotated and attractively presented) makes a worthy tribute to a likeable figure, who happily celebrated his 80th birthday in May of last year.

-- Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone [Recording of the Month, 8/1998]
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 4 "Last Symphony" by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Al Jarreau (Voice)
Conductor:  Barry Jekowsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California Symphony
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1990/1995; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1997 
Venue:  Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 42 Minutes 9 Secs. 
2. Concerto in slendro by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Maria Bachmann (Violin)
Conductor:  Barry Jekowsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California Symphony
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961 
Date of Recording: 03/1997 
Venue:  Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 10 Minutes 6 Secs. 
3. Elegy, to the Memory of Calvin Simmons by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Bill Banovetz (Oboe)
Conductor:  Barry Jekowsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California Symphony
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1997 
Venue:  Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 4 Minutes 41 Secs. 
4. Double Music by John Cage
Conductor:  Barry Jekowsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California Symphony members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1997 
Venue:  Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 4 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Notes: This work was written in collaboration with Lou Harrison. 
5. Solstice: Garden of the Sun by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Timothy Day (Flute)
Conductor:  Barry Jekowsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California Symphony members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1997 
Venue:  Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 4 Minutes 22 Secs. 
6. Solstice: Entrance of the Moon Bull by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Timothy Day (Flute)
Conductor:  Barry Jekowsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California Symphony members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1997 
Venue:  Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 1 Minutes 59 Secs. 
7. Solstice: Earth's Invitation by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Timothy Day (Flute)
Conductor:  Barry Jekowsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California Symphony members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1997 
Venue:  Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 2 Minutes 49 Secs. 
8. Solstice: Turning of the Wheel by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Timothy Day (Flute)
Conductor:  Barry Jekowsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California Symphony members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1997 
Venue:  Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 3 Minutes 24 Secs. 
9. Solstice: Finale, Blaze of the Day by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Timothy Day (Flute)
Conductor:  Barry Jekowsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California Symphony members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1997 
Venue:  Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 2 Minutes 27 Secs. 
10. Solstice: Vernal Dance by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Timothy Day (Flute)
Conductor:  Barry Jekowsky
Orchestra/Ensemble:  California Symphony members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
Date of Recording: 03/1997 
Venue:  Skywalker Ranch, Nicasio, CA 
Length: 2 Minutes 30 Secs. 

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