JOHN HARBISON (b.1938): The Great Gatsby Suite, Darkbloom: Overture for an Imagined Opera, Closer to My Own Life for Soprano and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 04Q080
Reference: TROY 1545
Description: Harbison assembled this suite from his 1998 opera in 2007, deliberately avoiding the sections to which he had already given a separate concert existence, in an attempt to encapsulate the atmosphere and action of the opera in twenty-five minutes of its most characteristic music. The piece consists of a suite of the pitch-perfect charlestons, foxtrots and the like that Harbison composed to epitomize the jazz-age milieu of the story, taken from stage and radio band sequences, interspersed with, and sometimes merging into, orchestral interludes in a tense, strained, far more chromatic idiom suggesting the decadence, moral ambiguity and ultimately the violence of the plot. The Overture was music retrieved by the composer from a project that he abandoned, about which for some reason he refuses to elaborate, although it is well documented; an opera on Nabokov's Lolita. Based on this tense, ambivalent seven minutes, combining melodic innocence, shadowy psychological slitherings and stark obsession, the opera would have captured the edgy, disturbing, nauseatingly elegant novel with exactly the uneasy refinement and precision the adaptation demanded. Closer to My Own Life sets little closing summaries extracted from the plain-spoken, psychologically intricate short stories of Alice Munro. The composer's idiom matches this direct yet complex counterpoint of ideas in music of harmonic richness but harmonically shifting extended tonality and mercurial changes in perspective and emotional emphasis. Texts included. Mary Mackenzie (soprano), Albany Symphony Orchestra; David Alan Miller.