Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Lou HARRISON (b.1917)
Concerto for violin percussion orchestra (1940, 1959) [20.29]
Concerto for organ with percussion orchestra (1973) [23.19]
Eudice Shapiro (violin)
David Craighead (organ)
Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble/William Kraft
rec 1975, 1977
CRYSTAL CD850 [43.56]

Harrison is well served on disc provided you are prepared to trawl a myriad different catalogues.

His frame of reference is typical of open-minded and eclectic Californian culture; an affluent state - home to a film industry that paid the bills for hosts of writers and musicians. Here was a milieu enriched by Europeans fleeing pogroms and oppression. This culture provided the mulch for Harrison, and his teachers Cowell and Schoenberg.

The gamelan patter-clatter of the violin work (properly entitled in Esperanto - Koncherto por la Violono Kun Perkuta Orkestra) has less to do with Schoenberg than with the singing line of the Alban Berg concerto. Its vitality echoes into the Leonard Bernstein Serenade flickering with rhythmic interest. The orchestra employs brake drums (is this where Herrmann's score for White Witch Doctor got its inspiration?), plumbers' pipes, galvanised washtubs, coffee cans, flower pots, wind chimes, clock coils - a battery of clanging metallica. The full complement is rarely used in deafening complexity. The preference goes to a tinkling reverberating webweave over which echoing staccato the legato of the violin floats in a spiced cantabile. The work has been played in concert by Eudice Shapiro and before her by Anahid Ajemin. The organ work follows a similar pattern with the juxtaposition of chanting keyboard lines chastened by dissonance and counterpointed by slow or fast counter-patterns from the percussion. The concerto (no Esperanto this time) is in five movements with the centre of gravity being a trio of sections (andante - largo - canons and choruses). The canons drift in leisurely convoy with Vaughan Williams' Second and Eighth symphonies. The flanking allegros are a combination of warm extruded Franck, Poulenc and dance rhythms.

Short measure I am afraid but a pairing of ineluctable logic. The age of the recordings does not show. This will be welcomed by the open-minded.

Rob Barnett

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