Review By David Cortés Santamarta,Ritmo,April 2011
La amplia producción orquestal del estadounidense Roy Harris (1898–1979), en la que sobresalen por derecho propio sus trece sinfonías, ha acabado por oscurecer otras facetas de su catálogo. Así ocurre con su obra para piano, que Naxos rescata aquí en su integridad. La escritura pianística de Harris es tan transparente como inmediata. Si bien no cuenta con partituras de gran entidad, su escucha resulta grata e interesante. La ausencia de retórica se agradece en unas pequeñas formas que van delineando con claridad los diversos intereses que atraviesan su estética: desde el gusto por las formas pre-clásicas (Toccata, de 1949), aprehendida durante su periodo de estudio con Nadia Boulanger en París
Review By Jack Sullivan,American Record Guide,March 2011
It is hard to believe that Roy Harris wrote 13 symphonies as well as numerous programmatic works, chamber pieces, and the nearly hour’s worth of piano music on this pioneering CD. I remember Leonard Bernstein championing some of his symphonies, but he is largely obscure to the general public, a “composer’s composer” at best. Yet as these sonatas, folkloric pastiches, variations, and dance pieces illustrate, Harris is both a great original and a highly enjoyable composer. Yes, the big pieces like the 1928 Sonata are full of massive polytonal chords and disjunct patterns, but the effect is one of majestic expansiveness and austere ecstasy. There is nothing remotely alienating or self-indulgently “modern” here: this music reaches out and grabs your
For me the most impressive works (inspired mostly by his wife, the pianist Johana Harris), are the more abstract ones, the sonata and suites. Without relying on American markers such as folk songs they convey an unmistakable American openness and expansiveness. Geoffrey Burleson plays them all with imposing sonority or simple charm, as required.
Review By Bob Briggs,MusicWeb International,January 2011
These days, Roy Harris is remembered as the composer of a famous 3rd Symphony, who wrote a lot of other Symphonies, but whose other music is hardly known, let alone heard. There is a school of thought which believes that beyond the 3rd Symphony most of his work isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Certainly there appears to be a lack of self-criticism on Harris’s part which allowed less well constructed and written works out into the public arena. Works such as the Concerto for Piano, Clarinet and String Quartet, op. 2 (1927), String Quartet No.3, Four Preludes and Fugues (1937), Violin Sonata (1941) and the chamber cantata Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight (1953), not to mention the orchestral works When Johnny (1934), the Violin Concerto (1949) and the 1st (1933) and 7th (1955) Symphonies show a composer of real stature. The chamber works could so easily be programmed but they’re not and our not hearing them is our loss, and a significant loss at that.
None of the pieces on this disk could be claimed to be major works but there are some very attractive and interesting things nonetheless. The two sets of American Ballads use folk-tunes, such as The Streets of Laredo and When Johnny Comes Marching Home, and are delightful suites with some nice quirky turns of phrase. In feel they are reminiscent of Barber’s Excursions for piano and would enrich any recital of modernish piano music. The early Sonata is a tersely argued work in four succinct movements, and it’s easy to see why the original scherzo wouldn’t have fitted into Harris’s scheme of things. The Piano Suite is another strong work; the first movement is bold and brassy, demonstrative and forthright, the middle movement pensive and the finale a French flavoured gigue.
For the rest we have six miniatures. The Toccata contains elements of both the headlong rush you’d expect from such a work, and short reflective interludes. The Variations on an American Folksong, True Love Don’t Weep starts in a most serious manner, becomes lighter then just as you think it’s going somewhere it stops! Untitled is, I believe, the earliest piece we know by Harris and it’s very strange, questing and angular, almost tuneless and imbued with an otherworldly feel. Little Suite is fun, this could almost be a teaching piece. A Happy Piece for Shirley is a delightful tribute. Orchestrations, a strange title for a solo piano piece, especially from someone as adept at orchestration as Harris, is very serious and profound.
Whilst most of these works have been recorded before, it’s good to have them collected together on one disk, and although none of them can claim pretensions to be a lost masterpiece, they are more than mere chippings off the block of genius. The performances have an air of authority amore....
Review By Record Geijutsu,December 2010
Review By James Manheim,Allmusic.com,November 2010
Roy Harris’ symphonies are played much less than they once were, and the piano pieces on this album go all but unheard on recitals. It may be time for a revival of Harris’ music in general, for he had a distinctive style that avoided populism, Romantic models, and European systematizing. Furthermore, unlike Copland, he did not change his style to catch the prevailing winds. This fine disc could make a good place to start with his music, for despite the small scale of the pieces (unlike the symphonies) they fuse the diverse elements of his style equally fully. This is the appeal of Harris’ music: there are spacious chords that evoke the American landscape (quite similar in impulse to the Copland “Western” sonority); elements of medieval and Renaissance
Review By Cinemusical,October 2010
Roy Harris is best known for his 13 symphonies, and in particular the third of those. Still, to have written less than an hour of piano music in his entire career seems sparse, especially when many were inspired by his pianist wife, Johanna. The sole sonata for the instrument, which opens this disc, comes from 1928 while he was still studying in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. The last is a brief (one-and-a-half minute) work from 1972, seven years before his death.
Review By Laima,WRUV Reviews,October 2010
American composer Harris (1898–1979) was influenced by French composers, and Irish music amongst other elements. Definitely modern, some impressionistic. Try all!