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John Harbison

Born: 1938

Nationality: American

Publisher: AMP

Photo © Katrin Talbot


The 2018-2019 season marks the 80th birthday of composer John Harbison with celebrations throughout the country and around the world. Three major premieres, more than a dozen new recordings, his first book, and performances across the globe mark the occasion. Major citywide celebrations are taking place in Harbison's two hometowns of Boston, MA and Madison, WI.
 
One of America's most distinguished artistic figures, Harbison is recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a MacArthur Fellowship and a Pulitzer Prize. He has composed music for most of America's premiere musical institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
 
Harbison's concert music catalog is anchored by three operas, seven symphonies, twelve concerti, a ballet, six string quartets, numerous song cycles and chamber works, and a large body of sacred music that includes cantatas, motets, and the orchestral-choral works Four Psalms, Requiem and Abraham. His music is widely recorded on leading prestige labels.
 
First performances in the 2018-2019 season include the monodrama IF (for Boston Musica Viva, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center), What Do We Make of Bach? for orchestra and obbligato organ, for a consortium anchored by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Northrop at the University of Minnesota, and the Seattle Symphony, together with a companion volume of essays on Bach, and the Viola Sonata, commissioned by an anonymous admirer with a consortium of first performances by distinguished violists across the country.
 
Recent works include Psalm 116 (Chanticleer), String Quartet No. 6 (Lark, Fromm Players at Tanglewood, and Telegraph Quartet), Presences (cello and string quintet), A Bag of Tales, (codas for piano), The Cross of Snow (in versions for viols with countertenor, and string quartet with mezzo-soprano), The Nine Rasas (clarinet, viola, and piano), and Painting the Floors Blue (for violinist Jennifer Koh).  Harbison's opera The Great Gatsby, a commission from the Metropolitan Opera, was recently revived at Semperoper Dresden, after the European premiere there of a new production following performances in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Aspen, Boston, and Tanglewood.
 
Harbison has been composer-in-residence with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Academy in Rome, and numerous festivals. He received degrees from Harvard and Princeton before joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is currently Institute Professor. For many summers since 1984 he taught composition at Tanglewood, serving as head of the composition program there from 2005-2015, often also directing its Festival of Contemporary Music. With Rose Mary Harbison, the inspiration for many of his violin works, he has been co-Artistic Director of the annual Token Creek Chamber Music Festival since its founding in 1989. He continues as principal guest conductor at Emmanuel Music (where for three years he served as Acting Artistic Director). An accomplished jazz pianist, Harbison founded MIT's Vocal Jazz Ensemble in 2010, for which he served as coach and arranger, and he is pianist with the faculty jazz group Strength in Numbers (SIN). In these roles he is adding to his large catalogue of pop-songs and jazz arrangements.
 
Harbison was President of the Copland Fund for fifteen years, and a trustee of the American Academy in Rome. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is a Trustee of the Bogliasco Foundation.
 
His music is published exclusively by Associated Music Publishers.
 
— October 2018
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