Marin Alsop / Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Roy Harris: Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6

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There are those who still profess to admire the symphonies of Roy Harris, but admiration for the American composer's deeply heartfelt if equally deeply reactionary works was much more widespread during the late 1930s and 1940s, when his big tunes, warm harmonies, driving rhythms, and colorful scoring made him one of America's more popular classical composers. But styles change, and by the 1950s, big tunes were out and hardcore serialism was in, and the result was a marked falloff in Harris' popularity and productivity. Nevertheless, the composer's admirers will likely welcome this Naxos disc with Marin Alsop and the Bournemouth Symphony featuring his Fifth and Sixth symphonies, each of which has its merits. The Fifth from 1942, is dedicated to "the heroic and freedom-loving people of our great ally, the Union of Soviet Republics," thus making it a sort of musical reply to Shostakovich's heroic Seventh from the same year. The Sixth from two years later tries to capture the emotions the subtitle "Gettysburg" evokes. Alsop and the Bournemouth give what they have to Harris, although Alsop does not bring much more to the table than a competent technique, and the current Bournemouth Symphony cannot hold a candle to the orchestra's earlier incarnations. While this disc is unlikely to make new converts to the art of Roy Harris, it will probably please those who hold him to be a great composer.

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