An American original, John Harbison has never been tied to a particular method or style, nor has his music been eclectic merely for the sake of change. This 2014 CD from Harmonia Mundi shows three distinct approaches in as many chamber works, showing his basic concerns with melody, counterpoint, and writing idiomatically for his ensembles. The String Trio is a solid piece of craftsmanship, demonstrating Harbison's gift for composing dissonant counterpoint that is pleasing to the ear, intellectually satisfying, and fully accessible, possibly even to an audience unacquainted with modern techniques. In Four Songs of Solitude, Harbison gives free rein to the violin's melodic nature, while maintaining an abstract character that is best defined in terms of contrasts. Songs America Loves to Sing reveals Harbison's love of jazz, hymn tunes, and popular songs, and his varied instrumental scoring brings kaleidoscopic colors to these familiar melodies. Camerata Pacifica performs the music with a thorough understanding of Harbison's aims, and the clarity and candor of the group's interpretations emphasize Harbison's artistic directness and skill in communicating musical ideas and emotions.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Four Songs of Solitude|
|Songs America Loves to Sing|