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John Harbison (b12/20/1938)

A graduate of Harvard and Princeton, and a pupil of Piston and Earl Kim in America and of Boris Blacher in Berlin, the American composer John Harbison taught from 1969 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has won a number of distinguished awards. He has written music for various ensembles and occasions, his early interest in serialism developing into a more individual musical language.


Harbison’s first opera, A Winter’s Tale, with his own libretto based on Shakespeare, was followed by A Full Moon in March, for which he drew on W.B. Yeats. His third opera, The Great Gatsby, after Scott Fitzgerald, was staged at the Metropolitan Opera in 1999. Ulysses is Harbison’s score for a ballet on the subject of the legendary Greek hero.

Vocal and Instrumental Music

Harbison’s song cycles are of particular importance among his many vocal works. These include settings of Montale, Hardy, Goethe and Emily Dickinson, with choral works that include settings of liturgical and biblical texts, as well as settings of William Blake and Emerson. His orchestral and chamber music ranges from concertos for violin, for cello, for viola and for piano to string quartets and a number of works that include the violin. Among these last are his Four Songs of Solitude for unaccompanied violin. Twilight Music is scored for violin, horn and piano, while his Variations of 1982 uses clarinet, violin and piano.


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