By Dan Stehman
Bio-Bibliographies in Music No. 40 (ISSN: 0742-6968)
Greenwood Press. Westport, Conn. 1991. 488 pages
LC 91-21554. ISBN 0-313-25079-0. $79.95 (Reference Book)
Roy Harris was born in the nineteenth century in Oklahoma in a county which
bears the name of the national hero he celebrated in his Symphony No. 10
Abraham Lincoln. For a short while in the 1930s and early 1940s he
threatened to become a composer up there with Bernstein and Copland in the
American pantheon. For various reasons, some of them extra-musical, his standing
plummeted. It cannot have been only political though his proudly declared
sympathies with the Soviet Union caused him trouble during the McCarthyite
years. However Copland whose candour brought down similar fire survived the
drubbing of reactionaries. His style once grasped was not greatly affected
by fashion so with his confreres Piston, Schuman and Mennin he had a thin
time of it during the late 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.
Harris haunted my early twenties. His Third Symphony intrigued me as a mysterious
make-weight alongside Koussevitsky's recording of Sibelius on an RCA Victrola
LP. I fell on my feet so to speak when I adventurously bought a second-hand
LP of the luminous and invigorating Seventh Symphony - Ormandy and the
Philadelphians (now blessedly on Albany TROY256). I played and played that
disc and it became an obsessive experience in much the same way as a similar
second-hand LP of the Piston Second Symphony and the William Schuman Violin
Concerto on DG. This developed further when I corresponded very briefly with
Mr Stehman in 1980/81 at which time I was trying to trace an announced but
elusive LP recording of the Sixth Symphony.
Make no mistake Harris is a major composer. He has a rangy vitality and wide
striding symphonic step that few can match. Much Piston suffers by comparison
though notably not the symphonies 2 to 6. William Schuman is touched with
a similar flame but he is more cosmopolitan and even neurotic than the wide-open
spaces visions of a typical Harris score. Harris has that epic nature-embracing
Whitmanesque loving defiance. His spirit is shared in echo or pre-echo in
works such as Copland's Saga of the Prairies; Piston 4, Randall Thompson
2 and John Veale's First Symphony and Panorama.
Works, revisions, borrowings and recyclings flowed freely from his touchstone
imagination. Dan Stehman has done Harris arduous, faithful and inspired service
in producing this catalogue. In it he has given shape and organisation to
a slumbering chaotic giant of an oeuvre.
The book is bound in blue (no jacket), with the gold blocked title set in
a black panel on both the font and spine. The book is built solidly for robust
library use. The paper is the standard cream matte using Times New Roman
font. The pages look busy with detail but this is a function of Stehman's
approach. This is very much an annotated catalogue and while all the usual
details appear we get, in addition, commentary on the different versions
of works, the revisions and not just premieres but also a selection of important
performances in the history of a work.
The first 22 pages are a study of the life, style and work. Pages 23 to 210
represent an exhaustive and note-supported list of all the works. There is
a discography, and a very full bibliography. The list of press coverage is
invaluable and fascinating because substantial key quotes are included for
many of the references. In the appendices we find a chronology of the works
and worklists by genre. The indices give access to titles and people.
Harris's works have received new life from the Albany CD of his symphonies
8 and 9. Most recently Malcolm D Robertson's two part article 'Roy Harris's
Symphonies: an Introduction' has been printed in Tempo. Impending is a cycle
of the symphonies in Naxos's American Classics series. I understand that
the conductor will be Theodor Kuchar with his Ukraine orchestra.
This is a rewarding book and just as valuable and fascinating to enthusiasts
as it was when first produced in 1991.
The ordering information for the UK is as follows:
Available from Greenwood Publishers, C/o EDS, 3 Henrietta Street,
Covent Garden, London WC2E 8LU.
Tel: + 44 (0)20 7240 0856.
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7379 0609.
Cheques must be made payable to EDS Publications Ltd
Following credit cards are accepted: Visa, Mastercard & American
In the USA and Canada the book is available from:
Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc, 88 Post Road West, PO Box
5007, Westport, CT 06881-5007, USA.
Tel: (203) 226 3571.
Fax: (203) 222-1502.
Checks should be made payable to: Greenwood Publishing Group,
The following credit cards are accepted: Visa, Mastercard, American
In the USA the book can be ordered via Greenwood's toll-free number
THE EUROSPAN GROUP
3 Henrietta Street
London WC2E 8LU, UK
Tel: + 44 (0)20 7845 0819
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7379 3313
** Table of Contents **
-- Life, Works, Style
-- Catalogue of Works and Performances
-- Catalogue of Original Compositions
-- Catalogue of Withdrawn, Incomplete, and Unattributed Works
-- Catalogue of Transcriptions
-- Catalogue of Editions
-- Reference Sources
-- Scholarly Writings
-- General Writings
-- Text Sources
-- Folksong Sources
-- Harris Writings
-- Critical Reviews
-- Appendix I: Chronological List of Works
-- Appendix II: List of Works by Medium
-- Appendix III: Variant Titles
-- Index I: General Entries
-- Index II: Harris Compositions, Transcriptions, Editions
-- Index III: Authors and Other Text Sources
** Author **
DAN STEHMAN, Professor of Music at Los Angeles Valley College.