A Sixth for John Harbison
10th November 2011
Harbison’s first four symphonies adhere to the standard orchestra complement, but in his Fifth Symphony he included mezzo-soprano, baritone and electric guitar to the mix. Harbison completed much of his early sketches for the Sixth Symphony when he realised he "was haunted by a missing sonority, a granulated, silvery sound; mysterious, even ominous; a punctuation for the end of the large paragraphs". Thus he carries on with the mezzo-soprano and adds a vital cimbalom: this enigmatic dulcimer found its way into the scores of many masters including Boulez, Dutilleux and Kurtag. Harbison’s latest work features the instrument in a brief but crucial moment in the narrative.
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