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Exploring the music of Lou Harrison


Lou Harrison, Violin Concerto, Grand Duo and Double Music (composed with John Cage) performed by violinist Tim Fain, pianist Michael Borisken, and the PostClassical Ensemble led by Angel Gil-Ordonez (Naxos)

One of the greatest contemporary music festivals this city ever had was at Buffalo State College in the amazing period when the great critic and historian Peter Yates was chairman of the college's music department.

The composers he brought to Buffalo included Lou Harrison and Henry Brant. In both cases, their music enchanted and astounded. In his long career, Harrison's music went all over the map -- literally in the case of the music with influences from the Middle East and the Pacific Rim and, of course, the Gamelans of Indonesia. The latter is the primary influence on his Violin Concerto, which also pays homage to the violin concerto of Alban Berg.

The 1988 "Grand Duo" for violin and piano is influenced by Gamelan but is also replete with such markings as "slow and rhapsodically."

The 1941 "Double Music" was composed with John Cage and is from the period when Harrison, Cage, Henry Cowell and Edgard Varese were composing music for percussion that no one else had imagined before but which all of them quickly developed with enduring mastery. Few 20th Century American composers are in greater need of wholesale exploration than Harrison.

3 1/2 stars (out of four)


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