Review By Bob Neill,Positive Feedback Online,March 2010
Symphony No. 7 (1952; revised 1955) has a new stormy, stentorian quality to it, even when it’s being melodic. No moody reflection or melancholy here. This is passionate, stirring stuff. The work is not without periods of relief but they are mainly oases. This is more urban in feel than Harris’s earlier music, full of motion, energy, and eclat, with hints of other ‘foreign’ things—even of Hindemith’s Mathis de Maler! I expect Symphony No. 7 shocked the composer’s usual fans.
Review By Penguin Guide,January 2009
Kuchar and the Ukraine orchestra offer powerfully idiomatic accounts of these two symphonies, and they are recorded vividly, though the upper strings are lacking real body and weight. The writing, open and strong, with antiphonal effects between massed strings and brass is recognizably from the same pen as the Third, well worth investigating. No. 7, like that celebrated work, is in a single 20-minute movement of contrasted sections, and builds up from a slowly monumental opening to a massive climax with powerful strings and brass, and relaxes at the end with tinkling percussion effects that are anything but monumental.
Review By Neil Horner,MusicWeb International,August 2002
This disc is yet another winner in the Naxos American Classics series. Many of the greatest successes of this imprint (the Piston Violin Concertos recording springs immediately to mind) have emanated from this source and this one is as accomplished as we have come to expect. It is especially valuable in that it brings us music of an important figure who is underrepresented in the record catalogues, especially on the European side of the Atlantic. Portrayed as something of a one hit wonder (his Third Symphony of 1938 is admittedly a masterpiece and one of (if not the) greatest of all American essays in the form), nothing could be further from the truth in Harris’s case. He wrote thirteen symphonies, including the choral Folksong Symphony and the
The Ninth Symphony is less typical in some ways. It is rather more extended than many of his mature works, running to half an hour, in three movements with the final one further subdivided. Each movement and section are headed by words taken from Walt Whitman, a figure who looms large in the works of many early twentieth century composers (including Holst, Delius and Vaughan Williams as well as many of their American contemporaries). The first, “We the people”, uses percussion to full effect and is more rhythmic in nature than Harris tends usually to be. The second, “…to form a more perfect Union”, however, is quintessential Harris, with an elegiac, almost valedictory feel to it. Whereas the strings and woodwind dominate the second movement, in the third, “…to promote the general welfare”, brass and percussion reassert themselves and the overall mood is one of optimism. The symphony ends on a high and once again reaffirms Roy Harris’s place at the very pinnacle of the twentieth century American symphonic tradition.
The short JFK tribute piece is also archetypal Harris, a serious but not over-solemn tribute highlighting the strings and, towards the end of the piece, tubular bells (anyone looking for the same sort of aural balm dispensed by Pärt and Gorecki might be somewhat disappointed though!)…It is a fine CD anyway but, under these circumstances, it must be regarded as an essential purchase for anyone remotely interested in the twentieth century symphony.