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Lou Harrison: Chamber & Gamelan Works

Release Date: 05/30/2006 
Label:  New World Records   Catalog #: 80643  
Composer:  Lou Harrison
Performer:  Daniel KobialkaMachiko KobialkaPatricia JennerjohnDon Marconi,   ... 
Conductor:  Robert HughesPaul Price
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gamelan Sekar KembarKronos QuartetManhattan Percussion Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HARRISON Concerto in Slendro . 1 Main Bersama-Sama. 2,3 Threnody for Carlos Chávez. 2,4 Serenade for Betty Freeman and Franco Assetto. 2,5 String Quartet Set. 6 Suite for Percussion 7 ? Robert Hughes, cond, Read more class="SUPER12">1 Daniel Kobialka (vn); 1 Machiko Kobialka, James Barbagallo (tack pn); 1 Patricia Jennerjohn (vc); 1 Don Marconi, Jerome Neff (perc); 1 Gamelan Sekar Kembar; 2 Scott L. Hartman (hn); 3 Susan Bates (vn); 4 Lou Harrison (suling); 5 Kronos Qrt; 6 Paul Price, cond; 7 Manhattan Perc Ens 7 ? NEW WORLD 80643 (66:14)

Along the with ?Pioneers of Electronic Music? disc reviewed elsewhere, this wonderful release represents the beginning of what I hope will be a grand river of re-releases of the CRI catalog on New World. This particular collection was in fact an earlier re-release on CRI, combining pieces from three different LPs (a couple of which I still have). So it?s inspiring to see that really good art continues to find advocates and venues for its continuing life and the beauties it brings us.

Only the Suite for Percussion dates from early in Harrison?s career (1942); along with Cage?s constructions, it?s one of the great classics of early percussion chamber music, using no pitched instruments (though temple blocks and brake drums create convincing melodies of their own in the piece). Starting with the 1961 Concerto in Slendro (the last word being a specific Indonesian scale), Harrison begins a romance with gamelan that would last the rest of his life. This work is written for an ensemble in just intonation that evokes the sound of the Indonesian gong orchestra, but Main Bersama-Sama , Threnody for Carlos Chávez , and Serenade for Betty Freeman (all from 1978?79) are each a concerto movement respectively for horn, violin, and suling (Javanese flute), accompanied by a real gamelan that Harrison purchased and directed. The 1961 piece has exceptional exuberance, and the three gamelan pieces are truly ?sweet? in their temperament?achingly tender and fluid melodies, which somehow don?t grow old despite the heavy repetition the form requires.

The String Quartet Set (also from 1978?79) features the Kronos Quartet early in their career, and is a five-movement suite that ranges influence from 13th century Lied (which sounds like an early American ?fuguing tune?), medieval dance, French Baroque, and Turkish song! The cellist becomes a percussionist in two of the movements, with precise knockings on the instrument. Despite the multiplicity of provenances, the ultimate effect is never too eclectic and always charming.

Overall, the performances are committed and joyful, and the sound is remarkably clean and clear, considering its origins. The only slight disappointment is the quartet, which sounds strangely dry and heavy in the midrange. There is some duplication of these pieces in Harrison?s discography, though these recordings of Main Bersama-Sama , Serenade for Betty Freeman and Franco Assetta , and the String Quartet Set seem to be currently the only versions. These are not reasons to avoid the disc. Lou Harrison was a force for good in music, who happily received a broad wave of appreciation late in life, but in time to enjoy it, which he seemed to have done royally. Few composers emitted such a glow, though considering the fact that earlier in life Harrison had a nervous breakdown, it was obviously hard-won. In both life and music, his is a testament to experiment, cross-cultural openness, and a deep love of beauty.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Concerto in slendro by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Daniel Kobialka (Violin), Machiko Kobialka (Tack piano), Patricia Jennerjohn (Celesta),
Don Marconi (Percussion), Jerome Neff (Percussion), James Barbagallo (Tack piano)
Conductor:  Robert Hughes
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961 
Date of Recording: 1972 
Length: 9 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Main Bersama-Sama by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Scott L. Hartman (French Horn)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gamelan Sekar Kembar
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1978 
Date of Recording: 1979 
Venue:  San Francisco, California 
Length: 7 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Threnody for Carlos Chavez by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Susan Bates (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gamelan Sekar Kembar
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1979 
Date of Recording: 1979 
Venue:  San Francisco, California 
Length: 7 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Serenade for Betty Freeman and Franco Assetto by Lou Harrison
Performer:  Lou Harrison (Suling)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gamelan Sekar Kembar
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1978 
Date of Recording: 1979 
Venue:  San Francisco, California 
Length: 5 Minutes 48 Secs. 
String Quartet Set by Lou Harrison
Performer:  David Harrington (Violin), Joan Jeanrenaud (Cello), Hank Dutt (Viola),
John Sherba (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kronos Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 12/17/1980 
Venue:  Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California 
Length: 26 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: USA (1978 - 1979). 
Suite for Percussion by Lou Harrison
Conductor:  Paul Price
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Manhattan Percussion Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942 
Date of Recording: 01/28/1965 
Venue:  Steinway Concert Hall, New York City 
Length: 9 Minutes 38 Secs. 

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