John Harbison

John Harbison

John Harris Harbison (born December 20, 1938 in Orange, New Jersey) is a composer, best known for his operas and large choral works.

Harbison won the prestigious BMI Foundation's Student Composer Awards for composition at the age of sixteen in 1954. He studied music at Harvard University, where he sang with the Harvard Glee Club, and later at Princeton. He is an Institute Professor of music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a former student of Walter Piston and Roger Sessions. His works include several symphonies, string quartets, and concerti for violin, viola, and bass viol (double bass).

He won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1987 for "The Flight into Egypt". He was nominated for a 2006 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance for his "Mottetti di Montale".

The Metropolitan Opera commissioned Harbison's "The Great Gatsby" to celebrate Maestro James Levine's 25th anniversary with the company. The opera premiered on December 20, 1999, conducted by Levine and starring Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Susan Graham, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Mark Baker, Dwayne Croft, and Richard Paul Fink.

Harbison was jointly commissioned by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue to write a piece for the historic "Papal Concert of Reconciliation." The event was co-officiated by the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rav Elio Toaff, the Imam of the Mosque of Rome, Abdulawahab Hussein Gomaa, and His Holiness Pope John Paul II. "Abraham", a six-minute composition for brass and antiphonal choirs, had its world premiere on January 17, 2004 performed by members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and a choir made up of members of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, the London Philharmonic Choir, the Krakow Philharmonic Choir, and the Ankara Polyphonic Choir, under the baton of Sir Gilbert Levine.

Harbison was previously the principal guest conductor for Emmanuel Music in Boston; after founding director Craig Smith's untimely death in 2007, Harbison was named Acting Artistic Director.

When asked for his "artistic Credo" Harbison (1990) replied: "to make each piece different from the others, to find clear, fresh large designs, to reinvent traditions."

He is married to violinist Rose Mary Pederson.

Discography (Incomplete)

*"Mirabai Songs / Variations" (1987). Northeastern Records NR 230-CD. Performed by Janice Felty, mezzo-soprano, Collage New Music Ensemble, conducted by John Harbison — Rose Mary Harbison, violin; David Satz, clarinet; Ursula Oppens, piano. Tracks 1-6: "Mirabai Songs", text from "Mirabai Versions" by Robert Bly. Tracks 7-10: "Variations", for violin, clarinet, and piano. Track Listing:
#I. It's True, I Went to the Market
#II. All I Was Doing Was Breathing
#III. Why Mira Can't Go Back to Her Old House
#IV. Where Do You Go?
#V. The Clouds
#VI. Don't Go, Don't Go
#Variations i-v
#Variations vi-x
#Variations xi-xv
#Finale and Epilogue
*"The Flight into Egypt and other works by John Harbison" (1990). New World Records 80395-2. Performed by The Cantata Singers and Ensemble, The Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, and The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Conducted by David Hoose, John Harbison, and Andre Previn. Tracks:
#"The Flight into Egypt", text from the King James translation of the story of the Flight into Egypt in the Gospel of Matthew
#"The Natural World": Prelude
#Where We Must Look for Help, text from Robert Bly
#On the Road Home, text from Wallace Stevens
#Milkweed, text from James Wright
#"Concerto for Double Brass Choir and Orchestra": I. Invention on a Motif: Tempo giusto
#II. Invention on a Chord: Cantabile
#III. Invention on a Cadence: Molto allegro
*"At First Light" (1998). Archetype Records 60106. Performed by Lorraine Hunt, mezzo-soprano, Dawn Upshaw, soprano, Greenleaf Chamber Players, and Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Scott Yoo. Tracks:
#"Due Libri dei Mottetti di Montale"
#"Snow Country"
#"Chorale Cantata"
#"Concerto for Oboe, Clarinet, and Strings"
*"John Harbison: Ulysses' Bow / Samuel Chapter" (2004). First Edition ASIN: B0002RQ35C Tracks:
#"Ulysses' Bow" ballet performed by Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Andre Previn
#"Samuel Chapter" performed by Susan Larson (soprano) and conducted by John Harbison

External links

* [ John Harbison]
* [ Harbison bio at MIT]
* [ Art of the States: John Harbison] two works by the composer
* [ Art of the States: Exploded View #1] podcast of John Harbison discussing his "String Quartet No. 3" (1993)
* [ Del Sol Quartet: "Tear"] includes Harbison's "Fantasia from quartet no. 2" performed by Del Sol Quartet

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