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Name of Work

Harbison, John (1938-)
Quintet for Winds (1994)

Movements:
Intrada
Intermezzo
Romanza
Scherzo
Finale

Performances:


Nov 20, 1994



Louise Dixon, Flute
Michael Henoch, Oboe
Larry Combs, Clarinet
Bruce Grainger, Bassoon
Gail Williams, Horn


Nov 21, 1994



Louise Dixon, Flute
Michael Henoch, Oboe
Larry Combs, Clarinet
Bruce Grainger, Bassoon
Gail Williams, Horn

HARBISON - Quintet for Winds

Composed in 1978

A native of Orange, New Jersey, Harbison studied composition at Harvard with Walter Piston, at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik with Boris Blacher, and at Princeton with Roger Sessions and Earl Kim. Besides teaching and conducting in the music division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he has served as composer-in-residence for the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the 1991 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and has received Guggenheim, Fromm, MacArthur and Koussevirzky foundation grants. As a conductor, he has been the guest of both the Boston and San Francisco symphonies.

His works include operas, orchestral pieces, concertos, and a variety of chamber
works, often for string combinations; he expressed himself as delighted when, in 1978, he received a Naumburg commission to write a work for the Aulos Wind Quintet, "Wind players," he said, "...are shaping a future for themselves through their energy and advocacy of new compositions....I regarded the writing of a quintet for woodwinds as challenging." He said further that: "I determined to deal in mixtures rather than counterpoints, and to strive for a classical simplicity of surface — to maximize what I felt to be the great strength of the [wind] combination, the ability to present things clearly."

Harbison's thoughts on "mixtures" of sounds leads the quintet into constantly-varied textures, sharp contrasts between different combinations of the five instruments, and layers of simultaneous musical events. The Intrada (introductory) movement at first pairs the horn and bassoon, the oboe and clarinet, with the flute decorating the top layer; these differing directions are suddenly pulled together into a unison passage, setting a pattern throughout the movement of similar contrasts and juxtapositions of procedure. The Intermezzo, emphasizing subtle changes of meter, has the tempo designation "Allegretto lusinghando": pace slightly lively, mood intimate and conversational. The meter progressions continue in the slow Romanza, while in the extremely fast-paced Scherzo, solo virtuosity is emphasized, each solo punctuated by pointed comments from the companion players. The overall tempo for the finale is given as "Adagio," but this deliberate pace is not adhered to throughout; apart from the slow opening, the music proceeds with a lively step, reiterating the ideas of sudden contrast and intense interest for all parts that characterize the whole work.

Program Notes by Andrea Lamoreaux

Performed November 20 & 21, 1994



Performance Audio

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