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John Harbison

Publisher: AMP

Remembering Gatsby (Foxtrot for Orchestra) (1985)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
7 Minutes
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Programme Note
John Harbison Remembering Gatsby (Foxtrot for Orchestra) (1985)
Composer Note:

Remembering Gatsby was composed for the Atlanta Symphony and is dedicated to the orchestra and its Music Director, Robert Shaw. It was completed during the summer of 1985 at Token Creek, Wisconsin.

For some years I made sketches for an opera based on Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby: after I abandoned the project I sometimes ran across musical images (in my sketchbooks) and fragrances from the novel (in my senses). A few of these were brought together in this orchestral foxtrot.

The piece, which runs about eight minutes, begins with a cantabile passage for full orchestra, a representation of Gatsby's vision of the green light on Daisy's dock. Then the foxtrot begins, first with a kind of call to order, then a twenties tune I had written for one of the party scenes, played by a concertino led by a soprano saxophone. The tune is then varied and broken into its components, leading to an altered reprise of the call to order, and an intensification of the original cantabile.

A brief coda combines some of the motives, and refers fleetingly to the telephone bell and the automobile horns, instruments of Gatsby's fate.

My father, eventually a Reformation historian, was a young show-tune composer in the twenties, and this piece may also have been a chance to see him in his tuxedo again.

-- John Harbison

  • Ensemble
    Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
    David Zinman
  • Ensemble
    Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
    David Zinman
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