Barbara HARBACH Chamber Music 1 American Solstice for chamber ensemble (2006) [11:23] Transformations for string quartet (2006) [15:37] Forces at Play for chamber ensemble (2005) [11:08] Carondelet Caprice for chamber ensemble (2007) [4:54] Fantasy and Fugue on Swing Low, Sweet Chariot for
woodwind quintet (2006) [4:25] Separately Together – Synesthesia for chamber
ensemble (2006) [13:15] Rhapsody Ritmico for brass quintet (2004) [4:21]
Istropolis/Kirk Trevor; Moyzes String Quartet; Woodwind
Quintet; Brass Quintet (rec. 20 May 2006); (Carondelet
Caprice, Separately Together and Forces at
Play), 21 May 2006 (American Solstice and Fantasy
and Fugue on Swing Low, Sweet Chariot), 24 May 2006
(Transformations), 26 May 2006 (Rhapsody Ritmico),
Slovak Radio Hall, Bratislava, Slovakia. DDD MSR CLASSICS
It’s always good to find a new composer
whose music speaks directly to you, using a language which
is easy to understand and assimilate, which doesn’t require
the instrumentalists to do things to their instruments
which seems to be against nature, and which has tunes.
Say Hi to Barbara
has an impressive list of works to her credit – much orchestral
music, including two symphonies, pieces for chamber ensemble,
string orchestra, organ, harpsichord, piano as well as
scores to several silent films, a couple of musicals and
choral pieces. She is also well known as a concert organist
and harpsichordist, the presenter of a TV show, Palouse
Performance – seen throughout the inland Northwest - and
is currently professor of music at the University of Missouri-St.
is called Chamber Music 1 so, obviously there is more to
come (Orchestral Music 1 - MSR 1252 is already available),
and the pieces here recorded are quite delightful. There
is an open-air quality to these pieces, much in the manner
of the Copland of the ballets and the folk inspired works
of the 1940s. The scoring is transparent and the textures
clear and bright. This is “white note” music, and is an
excellent example of a “new simplicity” in composition.
I am wondering if this music is the aural equivalent of
the Americana of the work of Grandma Moses, but I must
say that although both Harbach and Moses create works of
Americana, there is nothing naïve about this music.
Solstice, which starts the disk, is based on an original
fiddle tune and is exactly what we, in England, would
call down-home Americana. It is very attractive indeed.
Easy going and very melodic with no problems whatsoever,
Harbach gives us the wide open prairie, long vistas,
lots of sunshine, the settlers working the land.
eight very short movements. The music, although still of
the Americana style, is slightly more angular with more
movement and argument.
Play was written as a ballet and if Appalachian
Spring is to your liking you’ll love this. Carondelet
Caprice was inspired by pioneer film director Lois
Weber’s 1913 film How Men Propose and Separately
Together – Synesthesia (a five movement work) was
inspired by Alice Guy Blanche’s 1913 film A House
Divided (Harbach has written scores for both these
films, but I have no idea how the pieces relate to the
film scores as I have never heard them and the notes
make no mention of this). Again we are in the wide open
spaces (musically) and there’s also a touch of jazz,
but here there are darker patches colouring the music
which creates more interest and variety.
The final two
pieces are chamber works for (wood)wind and brass quintets.
The Fantasy and Fugue on Swing Low, Sweet Chariot is
really too short to make much of an impression – it’s over
almost before it’s begun. Rhapsody Ritmico starts
in a most un-ritmico way but soon gets to the point and
it’s quite a fun piece. A really satisfying end to the
I hope that
I have given some idea of the flavour of the music on this
disk and when I have compared it to Copland I don’t mean
that it sounds like Copland – certainly, this music doesn’t
sound like any composer I’ve ever heard, it is original
in that respect. It is very well written and skillfully,
and gratefully, scored for the various ensembles. The performances
here are very assured and the recorded sound, though a
little dry, with the performers well forward, is easy on
I am very pleased
to have made Ms Harbach’s acquaintance and want to hear
more of her work. It’s fine stuff, well deserving of a
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