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Barbara Harbach (b.1946): Symphonies Nos. 7-10; "Volume 11" / David Angus, London Philharmonic Orchestra

Album Summary

>Harbach, Barbara : Symphony no 7 ("O Pioneers!")
>Harbach, Barbara : Symphony no 8 ("The Scarlet Letter")
>Harbach, Barbara : Symphony no 9 ("Celestial Symphony")
>Harbach, Barbara : Symphony no 10 ("Symphony for Ferguson")
Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Barbara Harbach has a large catalog of works, including symphonies, operas, works for string and chamber ensemble, choral anthems, ballet, musicals and film scores, pieces for organ, harpsichord and piano and arrangements of Baroque works for brass and organ. A gifted performer as well, Harbach has toured extensively as both concert organist and harpsichordist throughout the United States and Canada, and overseas throughout Europe and Asia. Her lively performances and recordings have captured the imagination of many American composers; the body of work written for and dedicated to her is substantial. Harbach is also heavily involved in the research, editing, publication and recording of manuscripts of 18th-century keyboard composers, as well as historical and contemporary women composers. A prolific composer, Harbach's work is published by Vivace Press, Robert King Music, Elkan-Vogel, Augsburg Fortress, Encore Music Publishers, Art of Sound Music and Agape Music. As a highly active recording artist, her performances are available from MSR Classics, Naxos Records, Gasparo Records, Kingdom Records, Albany Records, Northeastern Records and Hester Park. Harbach, who serves as editor of the WomenArts Quarterly Journal, initiated Women in the Arts-St. Louis, a celebration of the achievements of women creators. More than 800 events by cultural organizations in the St. Louis region have provided audiences with new and historical examples of the work of women writers, composers and artists. In recognition of this achievement, she received the Arts Education Award from the Missouri Arts Council, the Missouri Citizen for the Arts Award, the Yellow Rose Award from the Zonta International Club of St. Louis, and the Faculty Excellence Award from the College of Fine Arts and Communication at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The winner of numerous awards and honors, Harbach received the Hellenic Spirit Foundation Award, the Grand Center Visionary Award for "Successful Working Artist," the Argus Foundation Award, and the YWCA Leader of Distinction Award in the Arts. She was recently named National Arts Associate Distinguished Member of SAI, Buffalo Chapter, and one of the "30 Most Innovative Women Professors Alive Today". Harbach is also the recipient of an honorary doctorate in music, Honoris Causa, from Wilmington College, Ohio for her lifetime achievement as a composer, performer, editor and publisher. Currently a Curators' Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Harbach holds academic degrees from Pennsylvania State University (BA), Yale University (MMA), Musikhochschule (Konzertdiplom) in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Eastman School of Music (DMA). [ www.barbaraharbach.com ]

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (10/24/2015-10/26/2015).



Reviews

An original voice
This volume brings listeners up to date with Barbara Harbach's symphonic output. It features symphonies No. 7-10, composed between 2014 and 2015.

Harbach is an economical symphonist -- the works are uniformly short, focused, and efficiently orchestrated. All four symphonies follow a straight-forward 3-movement fast-slow-fast structure. Yet with all these constraints, Harbach shows a great deal of imagination and variety.

Symphony No. 7, "O, Pioneer" uses music from her opera of the same name. Harbach manages to evoke the great expanse of the Nebraska prairie without for a moment sounding like Aaron Copland. No mean feat.

I have to admit I didn't enjoy Symphony No. 8 "The Scarlet Letter" as much as the others. The three movements are character studies of Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, and Arthur Dimmesdale. To my ears, only the middle movement, Chillngsorth captured the emotional turmoil of the character. The outer movements, though pleasant, weren't as engaging.

Symphony No. 9, "Celestial Symphony" also repurposes music from another source. This time, Harbach's score to the silent film "The Birth Life, and Death of Christ" (which I reviewed in its original form). The movie is a series of tableaux, and the original score for 13 instruments had a static quality to it.

Recast in symphonic form, Harbach explores and more thoroughly develops her material. I think it's a successful reworking. The music sounds more dynamic, and the enhanced instrumental palette allows for more nuanced musical expression.

The final work, "Symphony for Ferguson" fell just short of the mark, I think. Though I would be hard-pressed to suggest a composer who might come closer. Harbach, a member of the University of Missouri-St. Louis faculty, was commissioned to write a symphony of healing in the wake of the Ferguson riots. The music needed to speak to all the citizens of the community.

Harbach wove together tunes such as "Wade in the Water," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and 'Chester," to suggest that blending of cultures. While skillfully written, to my ears it just sounded like a medley rather than a work of great emotional appeal. Even the final movement, adopting the jazzy "St. Louis Blues," didn't quite gel for me.

Overall, though, I enjoyed this release. Barbara Harbach is a composer who follows her own muse, and I continue to admire her originality.
Submitted on 02/16/17 by RGraves321 
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Works Details

>Harbach, Barbara : Symphony no 7 ("O Pioneers!")
  • Conductor: David Angus
  • Ensemble: London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (10/24/2015-10/26/2015)
  • Running Time: 14 min. 29 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 2014

>Harbach, Barbara : Symphony no 8 ("The Scarlet Letter")
  • Conductor: David Angus
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (10/24/2015-10/26/2015)
  • Running Time: 14 min. 13 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 2014-2015

>Harbach, Barbara : Symphony no 9 ("Celestial Symphony")
  • Conductor: David Angus
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (10/24/2015-10/26/2015)
  • Running Time: 14 min. 39 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 2014-2015

>Harbach, Barbara : Symphony no 10 ("Symphony for Ferguson")
  • Conductor: David Angus
  • Notes: Henry Wood Hall, London, England (10/24/2015-10/26/2015)
  • Running Time: 18 min. 13 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Orchestral
  • Written: 2015