Crossover
4:43 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

How Sweet The Sound: John Harbison's Music Inspires Philadelphia Composers

Network For New Music, the award-winning new music ensemble and organization based in Philadelphia, looks at the music of the eclectic composer and pianist John Harbison at concerts and workshops from April 4 to 6, featuring music inspired by jazz, poetry, and American popular song.

John Harbison's "Songs America Loves to Sing," is the springboard for new instrumental songs by Philadelphia composers Uri Caine, James Primosch, Terell Stafford, Anna Weesner and Bobby Zankel, who layer jazz and classical traditions to create works that tell America's story with today's voices.

Harbison counts among his influences the Bach cantatas, Igor Stravinsky (whom he met in 1963), and jazz. His work was described by Fanfare magazine as being, "original, varied, and absorbing — relatively easy for audiences to grasp and yet formal and complex enough to hold our interest through repeated hearings — his style boasts both lucidity and logic."  He has written for every conceivable type of concert genre, ranging from the grand opera to the most intimate, in works that embrace jazz along with classical forms. 

Aside from workshops with Harbison, Network For New Music is holding two concerts that will straddle the worlds of jazz and classical music.  April 4th, it's How Sweet The Sound. Harbison’s setting of classic old American folk tunes, Songs America Loves to Sing, becomes the springboard for new instrumental songs by Philadelphia composers Uri Caine, James Primosch, Terell Stafford, Anna Weesner and Bobby Zankel, who layer jazz and classical traditions to create works that tell America’s story with today’s voices.  And music by Luke Carlson and Peter Christian brings a new interpretation to some old folk tunes.  The concert wraps with a jazz improv session featuring Harbison himself, a gifted jazz pianist, with virtuoso jazz trumpeter and Temple University jazz professor Terell Stafford, with musicians from Temple performing as well.

The second concert on April 6th is called Myth, Music, Truth.  In setting the written poetry of Louise Glück, Jessica Fisher, Eugenio Montale, and the unspoken poetry of almost-authentic folk songs, John Harbison’s lyric gift illuminates the hidden intersections of mind and body, pattern and disruption."  Works include the world premiere Network commission Right To Pleasure, the regional premiere Network co-commission Crossroads, plus Fourteen Fabled Folksongs and Motteti di Montale.  Performers include soprano Sarah Joanne Davis, mezzo Julia Bentley, with John Harbison conducting.  

This week on Crossover, we'll concentrate on the April 4th event, speaking with participating composers and pianists Uri Caine and James Primosch.  We'll talk about their work for this concert, Network For New Music, John Harbison and more.  We'll also play excerpts from Harbison's Songs America Loves To Sing, as well as other works by Caine, Primosch and Terrell Stafford.

More information here, or call 215-848-7647.

Crossover, Saturday morning at 11:30 am on WRTI-FM, with an encore Friday evening at 7 pm on WRTI-HD2.  Both airings are available on the All-Classical stream at wrti.org.

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