Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Wednesday, June 14

Harbison goes Baroque

Synopsis

A now-obscure Englishman named Charles Caleb Colton is credited with the famous quote that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." A number of great composers have been "flattered" in that fashion, too.

On today's date in 1985, a new work by the American composer John Harbison premiered in Sarasota, Florida. It imitated the form and gestures of a Baroque Concerto Grosso in the style of J.S. Bach. Harbison's work was titled "Concerto for Oboe, Clarinet, and Strings."

Harbison described his piece as follows: "The oboe, clarinet, and strings are equal partners. The first movement is declamatory, the second contemplative, and the last frenetic. Each movement sustains one affect [or mood], in the Baroque manner... The steady insistent rhythms are indeed baroque, the harmonies less so."

"One astute writer," commented Harbison, "referred to the piece as 'scenes from a marriage.' This metaphorical marriage between solo winds and strings contains quarrels, precarious balances, comic relief, misunderstandings, and eventual unanimity."

And, speaking of marriage, Harbison composed the work at Token Creek, in Wisconsin, an unincorporated community near Madison where his wife's family had farmed since the 1920s and where for some 25 years each summer John and Rose Mary Harbison have organized their own mini-Festival of chamber music.

Music Played in Today's Program

John Harbison (b. 1938) Concerto for Oboe, Clarinet, and Strings Peggy Pearson , ob;Jo-Ann Sternberg, cl;Metamorphosen Chamber PlayersScott Yoo, cond. Archetype Records 60106

Additional Information

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