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Roy Harris

Publisher: AMP

San Francisco Symphony (Symphony No. 8) (1962)
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
20 Minutes
Programme Note
Roy Harris San Francisco Symphony (Symphony No. 8) (1962)
Composer Note:

The San Francisco Symphony was commissioned in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Since St. Francis of Assai is the patron saint of San Francisco, I thought it fitting to write a symphony about the life of St. Francis, whose life history has fascinated me since I was a student at the University of California in Berkeley.

The work has been conceived to express the moods of the five dominant periods in the life of Saint Francis:

1. Childhood and Youth. 2. Renunciation of worldly living for the mantle of spiritual aspiration. 3. The building of the chapel with his own hands. 4. The joy of pantheistic beauty as a gift of God. 5. A final period of ecstasy after his premonition of death.

In the first section I have hoped to express the gradual transformation of carefree and unrestrained childhood to the ever-increasing energy and vigor of youth.

In the second section I have hoped to capture St. Francis’ mood of profound sorrow for the suffering of mankind and to transform this gradually toward a mood of abiding faith.

This third section is conceived as a vigorous mood of physical activity; it is a fugal movement in which the theme is evolved in variations and contrapuntal textures are of bright consonance (such as are so wonderfully achieved in the palettes of Van Gogh and Gauguin).

This fourth section is fantasy—pantheistic in nature—in which the piano (amplified and projected into the auditorium by speakers) enters prominently.

The fifth section is in the nature of a Gloria in which the joyous sounds of harp and chimes and large shining chords of consonance (piano and brass) predominate.

The entire work is a self-generating form (like life itself), with no stopping.

—Roy Harris

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