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  • Harris: Folksong Symphony / Creston: Gregorian Chant for String Orchestra
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Harris: Folksong Symphony / Creston: Gregorian Chant for String Orchestra


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Audio CD, May 11, 1999
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1. Folksong Symphony: The Girl I Left Behind Me
2. Folksong Symphony: Western Cowboy
3. Folksong Symphony: First Interlude For String Orchestra And Percussion
4. Folksong Symphony: Mountaineer Love Song
5. Folksong Symphony: Second Interlude For Orchestra
6. Folksong Symphony: Negro Fantasy
7. Folksong Symphony: When Johnny Comes Marching Home
8. Gregorian Chant For String Orchestra

Product Details

  • Performer: Harris, Creston
  • Audio CD (May 11, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Allegro Corporation
  • ASIN: B00000J821
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,189 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. VINE VOICE on January 20, 2006
Format: Audio CD
As crazy as this may sound, the composers of yore didn't sit around the campfire day after day and write music for our (meaning your and my) entertainment; Rimsky Korsakov didn't do up the story of Scheherazade so that we could test out our new hi-fi systems; Mozart didn't write Serenades so we'd have music for brunch; and Richard Strauss wasn't thinking of rock concerts or Stanley Kubrick when he composed Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Roy Harris wrote the Folksong Symphony in the early Forties at the ugly beginning of an ugly war. It was sung in New York by high-schoolers and broadcast to troops in North Africa. This kind of information is important to having an understanding of a piece of music sometimes. It helps us get a sense of oddities like Beethoven's "Wellington's Victory" which is hardly top flight Beethoven. It prevents us from being summarily dismissive of creative works that deserve a little respect, at least.

No its not like his other symphonies--it's barely a symphony--but it is a fascinating set of arrangements of folksongs. No this isn't a top-flight performance but its good enough and its very well recorded for 1960. The chorus has a common-folk quality that's possibly a hair better than the atmosphere conjured by the high-schoolers at the New York premiere in, I think, 1943. I'm sure some slick group could do a better job today but I'm equally sure they'd miss the whole point--this piece was never meant to be slick or even a serious addition to Harris's symphonic canon. The title--Folksong Symphony--is probably a way of giving something homely and earthy a bit of high-tone; that would make sense back then but I don't have enough room here to explain. The last arrangement is of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Castillo on February 8, 2005
Format: Audio CD
This is the only available recording of Harris' Symphony 4 (Folksong Symphony) and it's a mediocre one. The singing is around the level of a good Church Choir. The orchestra plays a bit better, but they have several not-so-good moments too. It doesn't help that they are miked extremely close. As for the symphony itself....Harris wrote many symphonies that surpass this one in quality. Of his symphonies that I have heard, this one is the most blatantly American. It has a certain old-timey charm to it, but at times, the piece comes off a bit trite. If you are exploring Harris' soundworld for the first time, this is not the best place to start. Try a recording of Harris' Symphony 3 or 7.

The Creston was an unexpected surprise! The orchestra for Gregorian Chant is a different group from the Harris symphony and they sound much better. It's a lush Romantic work that, as you can figure out from the name, takes the form of a Gregorian Chant. This is a really enjoyable composition that is hauntingly beautiful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Patrick W. Crabtree VINE VOICE on January 29, 2010
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I first heard Paul Creston's (1906-1985) "Gregorian Chant for String Orchestra" just a few nights back on WOSU FM 91.5 radio, (broadcast originating in Columbus, Ohio.) I immediately got online and ordered it.

According to the liner notes, this is the only available rendition of the work (this may or may not be true at this point, I don't really know.) As it gets heard more via CD and through NPR I feel certain that this actuality will change. This version was actually recorded in 1960 and Vanguard Classics has thankfully brought a very pristine sound to us here.

The work is a sort of contemporary symphonic poem, just over eleven minutes in duration. Honestly, I never associated Creston's intriguing melody with Gregorian chant until I had the chance to replay it and could focus a little more on it. I think that it would be accurate to state that it "springboards" from Gregorian chant but that's pretty much where any similarities conclude.

Here we are presented with a wandering orchestral journey that I could listen to for an entire evening. One could possibly compare the work's general ambiance to some of the more atmospheric works of Alan Hovhaness, perhaps Music of Alan Hovhaness: Saint Vartan Symphony; Artik, (this is yet another terrific symphonic CD, albeit the green artwork on the cover is truly horrific!)

The performance of Creston's work by the New York Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Arthur Lief is nothing short of superb. This is a melodic contemporary orchestral tone poem that you'll not soon forget.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I am not as familiar with the symphonic works of Harris as I am with those of Piston, Mennin, Schuman and Sessions. Still, listening recently to (and reviewing) Harris' Symphonies # 1, 5 and 6, I found them, much to my surprise, truly excellent: altogether very accessible but withouth lapsing into the trite and cliched Romantic sentimentality or pastoral prairie style typical of so many American composers of those years, epic without falling into bombast, and displaying a very original and personal sonic invention (see my reviews of Roy Harris: Symphony 1933; Concerto for Violin and Orchestra; Symphony No. 5 and Barber: Capricorn Concerto; Copland: Saga of the Prairies; Harris: Symphony No. 6 "Gettysburg"). So I decided to investigate more, and the 4th seemed the next step to make.

Well, those stylistic traits I enjoyed in the above-mentioned symphonies are present, but only fleetingly so. The "Folksong Symphony", written in 1940, is Harris' Big Patriotic Statement (it was even broadcast to American troops in North Africa during WW II). It elaborates on old American folksongs, Cowboy songs, songs from the Civil War and even, in the 6th movement, Negro spirituals, as a tribute to "the Negros- who so admirably represent our nation both in war and music" in the composer's own words - a nice statement, and not an obvious one back in 1940, but evidently one implied by Harris' fascination and identification with Abraham Lincoln. Movements 3 and 5 are orchestral interludes, in the form of boisterous, hoe-down-like music spiced with Harrisian turns-of-phrases.
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