All of this music has been recorded before successfully, but this particular compilation works very well as a unified program, while the performances are second to none. Harrison’s Violin Concerto (really Concerto for Violin and Percussion) is a major masterpiece. Harmonically inspired by Berg, in that the violin line is what you might call “atonal-lyrical,” the opposition of a single solo cantabile instrument against the mass of unpitched percussion creates a distinctive expressive contrast unique in the instrumental literature. The mood is neither Asian nor Western avant-garde, but somehow a world unto itself, and utterly compelling.
Tim Fain plays a very passionate solo violin. Close miking, it sounds to me, exaggeratesRead more his ample vibrato to a degree, and prevents him from achieving a true pianissimo, but the balances still reveal every detail of the timbrally fascinating accompaniment, and the intensity is unrelenting. He’s more naturally pitted against the piano in the Grand Duo, a five-movement suite that includes one of Harrison’s signature “Stampedes”, along with a round, an air, and a very un-Polish concluding polka. Pianist Michael Boriskin gives an excellent account of himself as Fain’s partner. Double Music, for percussion, is a collaborative work with John Cage. It’s pretty well known in modern music circles, and this performance by the PostClassical Ensemble revels in its alluring sounds and infuriatingly repetitive rhythms. You’ll either love it or hate it–or perhaps a little of both.
Harrison was a composer of great imagination and inventiveness. His best work captures a sense of wonder and fantasy that’s very much in evidence here. Give it a shot.
Double Musicby John Cage Conductor:
Period: 20th Century Written: 1941; USA
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Happy Centennial, Lou!May 25, 2017By Dean Frey See All My Reviews"This disc (and this review) is well-timed. We recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of Lou Harrison's birth. There seems to be at least some small interest out there in what should be a major event, though I would have hoped for a bit more hype for one of my favourite American composers. In any case this splendid new disc from Naxos is a suitable marker for Lou's Centennial. I recently came across a picture of the Surrealists in Paris: Man Ray, Hans Arp, Yves Tanguy, Andre Breton, Tristan Tzara, Salvador Dali, Paul Eluard, Max Ernst and Rene Crevel. There's so much genius here, Man Ray's versatility and Ernst's audacity, Dali's schtick and Breton's vision, all in one place and pretty much all from the same generation. You'd need to do a fair bit of Photoshopping to come up with a similar shot of America's great crop of modernist composers, partly because there's a wider range of ages, with Copland, Cowell, Bowles, Virgil Thompson and Gershwin born around the turn of the century; Barber, Cage, Schuman and Carter in the next decade, and the babies Lou Harrison & Leonard Bernstein (whose Centennial is next summer) ten years later. There's a much broader geographic range as well, from the West Coast (Harrison was born in Portland OR) to New York (where he worked for The New York Herald Tribune as a music critic) to Paris (where he did not go to study, unlike so many of his colleagues). Harrison's own genius is pretty clear, nurtured by his mentor Henry Cowell, his teacher at UCLA Arnold Schoenberg, and later in New York, that great well-spring of American modernism Charles Ives. The Concerto for Violin and Percussion is a great introduction to Harrison's music, with its kitchen-sink "junk" percussion and surprisingly full-bodied emotion from the solo violin. Harrison acknowledged the influence of Alban Berg's Violin Concerto, about which he said "It really walloped me." The soloist Tim Fain plays with the required virtuosity as well as the sensitivity and musicality to scale the heights and plumb the depths of this remarkable work, one of the great American concertos, matched in Harrison's works by his Piano Concerto. Angel Gil-Ordonez's PostClassical Ensemble provide robust support, with an equal virtuosity on the percussion side. Fain is joined by pianist Michael Boriskin in Harrison's Grand Duo, which treats the piano very much in a percussive role, though considering how important percussion is to Harrison it's more a question of opening up new options for the pianist rather than limiting them. The short but not slight Double Music makes a special impression in its seven minutes. It's the result of an intriguing collaboration with John Cage. Each composer provided music for two of the four players, based on a kind of temporal template, and the resulting work came together seamlessly. Chance, so important in Cage's music, had played its role perfectly. This piece nicely sums up mid-century American music: fresh and alive with many influences from around the world and from many time periods, as fun to listen to as I'm sure it is to play."Report Abuse