JOHN HARBISON (b.1938): String Trio (World Premiere Recording), 4 Songs of Solitude, Songs America Loves to Sing.
Catalogue Number: 09Q078
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Reference: HMI 907619
Description: Large, ambitious string trios are relatively uncommon; the relatively lean textures available make the ensemble a less obvious choice for expressing big ideas than the quartet or piano trio. However, Mozart managed it, as did Schoenberg,and now we have Harbison's significant, half-hour essay. The composer plays to the strengths of the group; clarity of contrapuntal line and the potential for discussion between three distictive-voiced equals, a natural fit for Harbison's customary idiom. The six movements have a classical restraint and formal elegance and craftsmanship, in the composer's habitual extended tonal vocabulary, linearly conceived and rhythmically vital. The 'Songs' show what can be done when the same principles are applied to a single line, in eloquent, varied, lyrical and intricate monologues. Ten more or less instantly recognisable America songs (spirituals, hymns, folksongs, jazz standards), transcribed for 'Pierrot' ensemble and full of contrapuntal, canonic elaborations and felicitous, original instrumental textures provide a clever, whimsically nostalgic complement to the more serious pieces. Camerata Pacifica.