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John Harbison
1938 -
United States of America, NJ
Picture
J. Harbison
John Harbison (20/12/1938) is one of America's most prominent composers, born in Orange (New Jersey). Among his principal works are three string quartets, three symphonies, two operas (A Winter's Tale and A Full Moon in March), and the cantata The Flight Into Egypt, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1987.
Requiem of Reconciliation - Juste Judex
Period:Modernism
Composed in:1995
Musical form:fragment
Text/libretto:Latin mass
Duration:5'48''
In memory of:the victims of World War II
Label(s):Hänssler Classic 98931
The work is a collaborative composition of 14 world-renowned composers from 13 countries involved in the Second World War. The 14 composers are: Luciano Berio of Italy (Prolog); Friedrich Cerha of Austria (Introitus and Kyrie); Paul-Heinz Dittrich (Dies Irae); Marek Kopelent (Judex Ergo); John Harbison (Juste Judex); Arne Nordheim of Norway (Confutatis); Bernard Rands (Interludium); Marc-Andre Dalbavie of France (Offertorium); Judith Weir of England (Sanctus); Krzysztof Penderecki of Poland (Agnus Dei); Wolfgang Rihm (Communio I); Alfred Schnittke and Gennadi Roshdestwenski of Russia (Communio II); Joji Yuasa (Libera me); Gyorgy Kurtag of Romania (Epilog).
The requiem memorializes the victims of the war. Created as a tribute to the victims of World War II, the work was commissioned by The Internationale Bachakademie in Stuttgart, Germany, founded by the well-known conductor Helmuth Rilling, who brought together the 14 composers to collaborate on the piece. Collaborative from conception to birth, Requiem of Reconciliation (Requiem der Versöhnung) was first performed by an international ensemble on April 16, 1995. Originally created as music for a Catholic Mass to commemorate the dead, the requiem provides a venue for the living to remember and honor the dead. As such, Requiem of Reconciliation calls for an international and collective remembrance of all the victims of the Second World War. The composers from Italy, Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, U.S.A., Norway, England, France, Poland, Russia, Japan, and Romania, once enemies in the war, came together to provide the international community with the memorial.
Each composer was assigned a separate section of the Requiem of Reconciliation. Each worked within the tradition of the Requiem Mass differently, some incorporating Gregorian chant or other themes traditional to the Latin Mass, and some departing from tradition and simply using the general idea and spirit behind a requiem to guide their composition.
Author:Alwen Bledsoe
Requiem
Period:21st century
Composed in:2002
Musical form:mass
Text/libretto:Latin mass
In memory of:family and personal friends
This requiem is for soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone; SATB Chorus; and orchestra.
A requiem is, by definition, a musical composition in honor of the dead, set to a traditional liturgical text in Latin. As Harbison worked on the piece over the years, he inscribed in his sketch the names of loved ones who died during that time. This was done, he writes in the program notes, "not to tell the listener about my reaction, but to remind myself that only living alertly in our own immediate lives gives us any comprehension of war, disaster, destruction on a wider scale."
The tragic events of Sept. 11 occurred one week after Harbison signed his contract with the BSO. "The events of that fall made my purposes clearer," he writes. "I wanted my piece to have a sense of the inexorability of the passage of time, for good and ill, of the commonality of love and loss."
The 17-year period of creation is "unusual" for him as a composer, Harbison said. Also unusual for him, he writes, was how "persistent" his original view of the piece was--"how closely my idea of the large design, even down to the harmonic outlines, was being pursued." Even in pieces written quickly, he said, this "persistence" is atypical of his creative process.
One of the problems with a piece that evolves over a long period "is that people assume you haven't done anything else in those 17 years," he added wryly. In fact, he said, "those years were very fluent periods of composition for me."
Harbison said he has always been attracted to texts that have been set and endured through many years--one reason that he was drawn to the requiem form. Some interviewers can't understand why he would want to add another requiem to the repertoire and ask him if he thinks his piece can "effectively compete in the requiem market, against ones that already exist," he said.
"It just goes to show how a lot of arts initiatives are viewed as products these days," Harbison said. "If I thought like that every time I wrote a string quartet, I probably wouldn't do it. It's strange that there's so much riding on something earning its keep. If you're a concert music composer, you know you're not earning your keep."
Author:Mary Haller