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Barbara Harbach, Volume 1 - Orchestral Music


Release Date: 10/23/2007 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1252   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Barbara Harbach
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czecho-Slovak Radio Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 56 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



HARBACH Veneration. Frontier Fancies. Arcadian Reverie. 1 Rhapsody Jardine. 2 One of Ours Kirk Trevor, cond; 1 František Novotný (vn); 2 Cynthia Green Libby (ob); Slovak RSO MSR 1252 (56:05)


HARBACH Read more class="ARIAL12b">Sinfonietta . In Memoriam: Turn Round, O My Soul. Freedom Suite. 2 Songs from The Sacred Harp. Demarest Suite. Nights in Timi?oara. Lilia Polka David Angus, cond; London PO MSR 1258 (67:45)


HARBACH American Solstice. 1 Transformations. 2 Forces at Play. 1 Carondelet Caprice 1. Fantasy and Fugue on Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. 3 Separately Together: Synesthesia. 1 Rhapsody Ritmico 4 1 Istropolis Ens; 2 Moyzes Qrt; 3 ww qnt; 4 brass qnt MSR 1253 (65:32)


One should not, perhaps, be so naïve as to dismiss the Venerations as music that is simply easy on the ear. As the music progresses, one gets a sense of the expertise involved here: the skilled but subtle use of counterpoint that never calls attention to itself. The second movement, “Charity-Caress,” started life as a piece for cello and voice (I am not sure I would have guessed), although there is an undeniable sense of ongoing dialog. Again, one is in danger of missing the composer’s craft in the final “Grace: Pleasure Heart” (which, as the booklet notes claim, is a “spirited frolic”).


The piece for violin and orchestra, Frontier Fancies , is memorable for its sense of longing as well as the caprice of the final “Dancedevil.” Harbach is blessed with magnificent soloists, both here and in the oboe pastoral Rhapsody Jardine , in which Cynthia Green Libby pipes most appealingly. The symphony (inspired by Willa Cather) is notable for Harbach’s ability to make her point swiftly (none of the three movements last over five minutes) and effectively. The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra plays with great belief in the music; recording quality is of top quality.


But if the Slovak RSO plays with élan, it is the London Philharmonic that really excels in the disc Music for Strings (MSR 1258). Rarely have I heard the orchestra’s string section play with such golden tone as in the lush and lavish “Hommage” first movement of the Sinfonietta (2010), a part of which reuses material from Harbach’s opera O Pioneers! (Alexander’s aria, “In the Cold in the Deep in the Dark”). Conductor David Angus judges both tempo and textures perfectly. Harbach’s interior, deep side is heard in the In Memoriam: Turn Round, O My Soul (how perfectly judged are the low string pizzicatos around a minute in), while the Freedom Suite owes much to Harbach’s interest in strong women (here Harriet Scott). The use of spirituals is to the forefront here, and Harbach weaves them miraculously into her tapestry.


The Two Songs from The Sacred Harp exude confidence, both from composer and performers. They are highly atmospheric miniatures, too. The Demarest Suite takes its name from the place where its commissioners, the Northern Valley Regional High School, N.J., is based. Again, music from the opera O Pioneers! is reused (this time Marie and Emil’s duet in the first movement and a theme from a festive wedding in the opera in the finale). Charm is the watchword here.


Interestingly, Nights in Timi?oara invokes the Romanian people and the city that is known as “the city of flowers.” It is a more sophisticated piece, contrasting with the final item, an arrangement of Kate Chopin’s Lilia Polka for strings. Delightful.


The chamber-music disc brings a more Coplandesque slant, with American Solstice. Taking as her basis (loosely) an American fiddle tune (it is easy to hear the rusticity), Harbach crafts a real sense of joy, an impression only underlined by the excellent performance. The Transformations for string quartet is inspired by a silent film, the 1912 Making an American Citizen . There are eight short movements, each lovingly delivered here by the Moyzes Quartet. Separately Together is again based on an early film (1913 this time), and is a score full of playfulness; Carondelet Caprice (another 1913 film provides the inspiration) is charm in the shape of simple yet effective counterpoint. The skillful Fantasy and Fugue on Swing Low, Sweet Chariot for winds is just waiting to enter the repertoire, I would think. It must be so much fun to play, as well as to listen to. The dance element that shaped the genesis of Forces at Play is very evident here. Finally, Separately Together—Synaesthesia for chamber ensemble (for the 1913 film A House Divided ) includes some fascinating pages (the shiftingly playful “Dancing Rhythms,” for example). But they have saved the best until last: the Rhapsody Ritmico for brass quintet is a blast (literally as well as in Affekt ). Again counterpoint (here a full-blown fugue) is a vital part of the mix.


All three of these discs include vibrant, stirring music that begs to be heard. Harbach is an individual voice of great skill.


FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

1. Veneration for Orchestra by Barbara Harbach
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czecho-Slovak Radio Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
2. Frontier Fancies by Barbara Harbach
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czecho-Slovak Radio Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
3. Arcadian Reverie by Barbara Harbach
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czecho-Slovak Radio Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
4. Rhapsody Jardine for Oboe and Orchestra by Barbara Harbach
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czecho-Slovak Radio Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
5. One of Ours "Willa Cather Symphony" by Barbara Harbach
Conductor:  Kirk Trevor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Czecho-Slovak Radio Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

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