John Harbison | Celebrating 80

John Harbison | Celebrating 80
John Harbison © Katrin Talbot

Distinguished, iconic American composer John Harbison celebrates his 80th birthday on December 20 2018, and marks this season in a characteristically industrious and thoughtful manner, including three major world premieres, a written collection of reflections celebrating his life in music, and multiple performances of choral, orchestral, chamber, and vocal works in Boston and across the globe.

World Premieres  

What Do We Make of Bach? for Orchestra & Obbligato Organ
Recently named Minnesota Orchestra’s "Season Composer," Harbison will be in residence at the University of Minnesota as part of the celebrations surrounding the world premiere of his organ concerto What Do We Make of Bach?, for Orchestra & obbligato Organ, which premieres October 12 and 13 2018. Commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Northrop, and the Seattle Symphony, the piece aptly celebrates Harbison’s lifelong dedication to the music of J.S. Bach and will be the first public hearing of the Northrop’s restored, historic Aeolian-Skinner organ. Esteemed organist Paul Jacobs will be the featured soloist for the world premiere, with Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä conducting. The Seattle Symphony will present the West Coast premiere with soloist Wayne Marshall and Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot conducting, March 21 and 23 2019.

Coinciding with the world premiere of What Do We Make of Bach?, for Orchestra & obbligato Organ, Harbison has penned a volume of personal accounts of his life in music. Titled What Do We Make of Bach?: Portraits, Essays, Notes, this personal collection explores his intimate and profound relationship with music and with Bach’s work. The book will be available at the premiere concerts in Minnesota and Seattle, and can also be purchased online.

"The autobiography we couldn't possibly have predicted…fragments from a life devoted to music, and especially to Bach."
— Lloyd Schwartz

On October 20 2018, Boston Musica Viva opens its 50th-anniversary season with the world premiere of IF — a monodrama for soprano and ensemble on texts of Friedrich Hölderlin, translated by the composer. IF is co-commissioned by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, which presents the work July 14 and 15 2019, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, where performances will follow.

Viola Sonata and Sacred Trilogy
Violist Sally Chisholm and pianist Timothy Lovelace premiere Harbison’s Viola Sonata February 17 2019 at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

On November 3 2018 in Boston, Cantata Singers, commissioner of Harbison’s But Mary Stood, The Supper at Emmaus, and Pulitzer Prize-winning The Flight into Egypt, will present all three Harbison works in one evening as Harbison’s Sacred Trilogy alongside a work of Bach. Presented in honor of the composer’s 80th birthday, this is the first time that the three cantatas that form the Trilogy, all of them commissioned by and composed for Cantata Singers, are presented together on one concert.

Selected Events  

In addition to these major events, the Boston Symphony Orchestra features Harbison on October 18-23 2018 (Remembering Gatsby, Ken-David Masur conducting), and January 10-12 2019 (Symphony No. 2, Sir Andrew Davis conducting), and with chamber performances in Boston and Leipzig in June 2019. Details of further tributes to Harbison around the world and in Boston from Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emmanuel Music in Boston, MA, (where Harbison has served as Principal Guest Conductor for almost 50 years), and the Tanglewood Music Festival, will be announced in the coming months.

October 12-13
What Do We Make of Bach?, for Orchestra & obbligato OrganWorld Premiere
Featured Composer, 2018-19 Season
Minnesota Orchestra | Paul Jacobs, organ | Osmo Vänskä, conductor

October 14
Portrait concert
Chamber Music Society of Minnesota
Saint Paul, MN

October 18-23
Remembering Gatsby
Boston Symphony Orchestra | Ken-David Masur, conductor
Boston, MA

October 20
IF, Monodrama for Soprano and Ensemble – World Premiere
Boston Musica Viva | Lucy Fitz Gibbon, soprano | Richard Pittman, conductor
Cambridge, MA

October 21
Harbison conducts Bach
Cantata BWV 99: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan II
Emmanuel Music | John Harbison, conductor
Boston, MA

October 27
O Magnum Mysterium
New York Virtuoso Singers | Harold Rosenbaum, conductor
New York, NY

October 27
Symphony No. 1
New England Philharmonic | Richard Pittman Music Director
Boston, MA

November 3
Sacred Trilogy: The Flight into Egypt, But Mary Stood, and The Supper at Emmaus
Cantata Singers | David Hoose, conductor
Boston, MA

November 11
A Celebration of John Harbison
Bach Society Orchestra | Reuben Stern, Music Director
Cambridge, MA

November 25
The Seven Ages | Die Kürze
Collage New Music | Rebecca Printz, mezzo-soprano | David Hoose, Music Director
Boston, MA

November 28
Triple Anniversary Concert (John Harbison, Thea Musgrave, Joan Tower)
Songs America Loves to Sing
Da Capo Chamber Players
New York, NY

December 9
Six American Painters
Minnesota Orchestra Chamber Series
Minneapolis, MN

December 16
Memories and Premonitions
November 19, 1828
Copland House at Merestead
Mt. Kisco, NY

December 31
Remembering Gatsby
Minnesota Orchestra New Year’s Eve Concert
Minneapolis, MN

January 10-12
Symphony No. 2
Boston Symphony Orchestra | Sir Andrew Davis, conductor
Boston, MA

January 13
Celebrating John Harbison’s 80th
Duo, for flute & piano | Deep Dances | Piano Quintet | Wind Quintet | Bach: Cantata 51
Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players | Gilbert Kalish, piano | Amanda Forsythe, soprano
Boston, MA

January 23
Late Night at Emmanuel: A birthday party for John Harbison
"The Great Harbison Songbook" (selections)| String Quartet No. 6 | Thanks, Victor
Emmanuel Music | The Lydian Quartet
Boston, MA

FEBRUARY: Madison Celebrates Harbison
Month-long Exhibit on John Harbison & His Music
Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin
Madison, WI

Broadcast Retrospective
Wisconsin Public Radio

February 15-17
The Most Often Used Chords
Madison Symphony Orchestra | John DeMain, conductor
Madison, WI

February 17
Viola Sonata – World Premiere
Four Encores for Stan | The Nine Rasas | The Rewaking
Sally Chisholm, viola | Timothy Lovelace, piano | Charles Neidich, clarinet | Pro Arte Quartet
Mead Witter School of Music
Madison, WI

March 19
Viola Sonata – New York and Co-commission Premiere
Samuel Rhodes, viola | Robert McDonald, piano
The Juilliard School
New York, NY

March 21-23
What Do We Make of Bach?, for Orchestra & obbligato OrganCo-commission Premiere
Seattle Symphony | Wayne Marshall, organ | Ludovic Morlot, conductor
Seattle, WA

View John Harbison's Full Performance Calendar 

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