Even though I am missing the opening work on this concert (the Barber Symphony is missing and somewhere in the vault), I had to run it because I am a fan of American composer Roy Harris, whose work doesn’t get nearly enough podium time of late.
The legendary Erich Leinsdorf is guest conducting the Chicago Symphony this week, in a concert recorded on March 28, 1981. Ironically, the opening work (which is missing) was the Symphony of Samuel Barber, who had died a few weeks earlier and whose memory this concert is dedicated.
This post opens with the second work of the concert, the Symphony Number 3 (in one movement) by Roy Harris. It is probably one of Harris’s most well-known pieces and was certainly the one which brought him to international attention when it was world premiered by The Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitsky in the 1930s. The music of Roy Harris always reminded me of that middle ground between the formal and conservative approach of the Eastman School and the radical 2nd Viennese school of Berg and Schoenberg. I may be totally wrong in that estimate, but I nonetheless come away feeing I am hearing an original voice, and it’s a little disappointing that not more of Roy Harris’s music isn’t performed and recorded these days. He really needs a reassessment and a thorough digging through his scores – not because I can’t get enough of his music, but I think he would find a new and fresh audience for his point of view.
The last work is no stranger to anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes in a Music Appreciation class. The Dvorak “New World” Symphony is a workhorse which many people know by heart. But no matter how man times you hear something, when someone whose work on the podium you admire, it’s like hearing something new.
I would certainly urge you to go and check out more of Roy Harris’s music and hopefully this concert will be a stepping off point for you.