Roy Harris’ Third Symphony: Sounds of the Rugged American Frontier

Roy Harris (1898-1979) was born in a log cabin on the Oklahoma prairie and grew up as a farmer in the rural San Gabriel Valley of Southern California. He went on to write what the legendary Boston Symphony music director Serge Koussevitzky called “the first great symphony by an American composer.” That work was Harris’ Symphony No. 3, completed in 1938 and premiered the following year by Koussevitzky and the BSO. It’s music …

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The Louisville Orchestra: Five Historic Recordings

What ingredients are required to develop and sustain a flourishing professional orchestra? Vision, ambition, dedication to the community, and at least a modicum of “big league” thinking, to name a few. The early years of the Louisville Orchestra offer a case in point. Shortly after its founding in 1937, the ensemble’s first music director, Robert Whitney and Louisville mayor, Charles Farnsley, “conceived an adventurous plan to make the commissioning, performance, and recording of new works …

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Happy Birthday, William Primrose

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of the Scottish violist and teacher, William Primrose (1904-1982). Primrose performed in Arturo Toscanini’s NBC Symphony in the late 1930s and formed the Primrose Quartet. He made numerous recordings with Jascha Heifetz, Gregor Piatigorsky, and Arthur Rubinstein. He commissioned and premiered Béla Bartók’s Viola Concerto, a piece which was finished posthumously after the composer’s death in 1945. As a teacher, he contributed several books on viola playing. Primrose’s singing tone …

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Roy Harris’ Symphonic Memorial to Gettysburg

Awakening, Conflict, Dedication, Affirmation…These are the subtitles of the four movements which make up American composer Roy Harris’ Symphony No. 6 “Gettysburg.” Written in 1944 during the height of the Second World War, the movements of Harris’ Symphony draw inspiration from the outline of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. They celebrate a mythic vision of American progress in which growing pains give way to the possible future realization of the nation’s loftiest ideals. There are programmatic elements in …

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