In Praise of Roy Harris' Third Symphony
Apr 3, 2005 at 3:30 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 4


Headphoneus Supremus
Sep 13, 2004
Aside from my one recording, I was privileged to hear Roy Harris's 3rd Symphony at Carnegie Hall last February, performed by the Cleveland Orchestra under the baton of Franz Welzer-Most. Along with the Harris, Radu Lupu soloed in Beethoven's Piano Concertos 2 and 3. It was a memorable evening as the orchestra and Lupu were clearly "in the zone."

The Harris is a short piece, a "symphony in one movement" that really deserves greater exposure. I am so encouraged that American music is now being included in concerts of the more established repertoire rather than in evenings devoted purely to Americana. Hopefully, it will be performed more and more so that it will eventually become a performance staple.
Apr 3, 2005 at 3:50 AM Post #2 of 4
I agree that the Harris is a gem, and I am always delighted when I find an American work that is truly a masterpiece. The reason I replied, though, is to say that I concur wholeheartedly about making great American compositions part of the normal repertoire rather than doing completely American themed concerts. I have never felt that these themed concerts were effective, and quite frankly they often end up sounding like too much of the same. Just like any other great music, their genius becomes apparent when presented alongside contrasting works.

Apr 3, 2005 at 3:57 AM Post #3 of 4
I can't get enough of this one right now. Anyone who likes 20th century tonal music and hasn't heard it - run, don't walk to get a copy.

In this twenty-minute masterpiece, we have the seeds of minimalism (Glass and Adams are obvious descendants), 1930s "Socialist Realism" exemplified by Copland, as well as post-crackdown Shostakovich and Prokofiev (the connection between Copland and the Russians just occurred to me today , by the way - all were trying to create essentally a "people's music" for ther own lands), neo-classicism of the Stravinsky school, the nationalism of Sibelius and Vaughn Williams, and the late Romanticism of Hanson, Creston, Barber and others. It was once called the "most important contribution to 20th century American music", and now it's shamefully neglected.

Any others have experiences with it?
Apr 4, 2005 at 12:15 AM Post #4 of 4
I have enjoyed Bernstein's first (1961) recording of the Harris 3rd for almost 40 years, and had the good fortune to hear him conduct a live performance with the New York Philharmonic. It's a wonderful piece.

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