Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

ROY HARRIS: A Bio-Bibliography
By Dan Stehman
Bio-Bibliographies in Music No. 40 (ISSN: 0742-6968)
Greenwood Press. Westport, Conn. 1991. 488 pages
LC 91-21554. ISBN 0-313-25079-0. $79.95 (Reference Book)
  AmazonUK   £67.50 AmazonUS $79.95

Roy Harris was born in the nineteenth century in Oklahoma in a county which bears the name of the national hero he celebrated in his Symphony No. 10 Abraham Lincoln. For a short while in the 1930s and early 1940s he threatened to become a composer up there with Bernstein and Copland in the American pantheon. For various reasons, some of them extra-musical, his standing plummeted. It cannot have been only political though his proudly declared sympathies with the Soviet Union caused him trouble during the McCarthyite years. However Copland whose candour brought down similar fire survived the drubbing of reactionaries. His style once grasped was not greatly affected by fashion so with his confreres Piston, Schuman and Mennin he had a thin time of it during the late 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.

Harris haunted my early twenties. His Third Symphony intrigued me as a mysterious make-weight alongside Koussevitsky's recording of Sibelius on an RCA Victrola LP. I fell on my feet so to speak when I adventurously bought a second-hand LP of the luminous and invigorating Seventh Symphony - Ormandy and the Philadelphians (now blessedly on Albany TROY256). I played and played that disc and it became an obsessive experience in much the same way as a similar second-hand LP of the Piston Second Symphony and the William Schuman Violin Concerto on DG. This developed further when I corresponded very briefly with Mr Stehman in 1980/81 at which time I was trying to trace an announced but elusive LP recording of the Sixth Symphony.

Make no mistake Harris is a major composer. He has a rangy vitality and wide striding symphonic step that few can match. Much Piston suffers by comparison though notably not the symphonies 2 to 6. William Schuman is touched with a similar flame but he is more cosmopolitan and even neurotic than the wide-open spaces visions of a typical Harris score. Harris has that epic nature-embracing Whitmanesque loving defiance. His spirit is shared in echo or pre-echo in works such as Copland's Saga of the Prairies; Piston 4, Randall Thompson 2 and John Veale's First Symphony and Panorama.

Works, revisions, borrowings and recyclings flowed freely from his touchstone imagination. Dan Stehman has done Harris arduous, faithful and inspired service in producing this catalogue. In it he has given shape and organisation to a slumbering chaotic giant of an oeuvre.

The book is bound in blue (no jacket), with the gold blocked title set in a black panel on both the font and spine. The book is built solidly for robust library use. The paper is the standard cream matte using Times New Roman font. The pages look busy with detail but this is a function of Stehman's approach. This is very much an annotated catalogue and while all the usual details appear we get, in addition, commentary on the different versions of works, the revisions and not just premieres but also a selection of important performances in the history of a work.

The first 22 pages are a study of the life, style and work. Pages 23 to 210 represent an exhaustive and note-supported list of all the works. There is a discography, and a very full bibliography. The list of press coverage is invaluable and fascinating because substantial key quotes are included for many of the references. In the appendices we find a chronology of the works and worklists by genre. The indices give access to titles and people.

Harris's works have received new life from the Albany CD of his symphonies 8 and 9. Most recently Malcolm D Robertson's two part article 'Roy Harris's Symphonies: an Introduction' has been printed in Tempo. Impending is a cycle of the symphonies in Naxos's American Classics series. I understand that the conductor will be Theodor Kuchar with his Ukraine orchestra.

This is a rewarding book and just as valuable and fascinating to enthusiasts as it was when first produced in 1991.

Rob Barnett


The ordering information for the UK is as follows:

Available from Greenwood Publishers, C/o EDS, 3 Henrietta Street,
Covent Garden, London WC2E 8LU.

Tel: + 44 (0)20 7240 0856.
Fax: + 44 (0)20 7379 0609.

Cheques must be made payable to EDS Publications Ltd

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In the USA and Canada the book is available from:
Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc, 88 Post Road West, PO Box
5007, Westport, CT 06881-5007, USA.

Tel: (203) 226 3571.

Fax: (203) 222-1502.

Checks should be made payable to: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.

The following credit cards are accepted: Visa, Mastercard, American Express.

In the USA the book can be ordered via Greenwood's toll-free number 1-800-225-5800


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** Table of Contents **

-- Preface
-- Life, Works, Style
-- Catalogue of Works and Performances
-- Catalogue of Original Compositions
-- Catalogue of Withdrawn, Incomplete, and Unattributed Works
-- Catalogue of Transcriptions
-- Catalogue of Editions
-- Discography
-- Bibliographies
-- Reference Sources
-- Scholarly Writings
-- General Writings
-- Text Sources
-- Folksong Sources
-- Harris Writings
-- Critical Reviews
-- Appendix I: Chronological List of Works
-- Appendix II: List of Works by Medium
-- Appendix III: Variant Titles
-- Index I: General Entries
-- Index II: Harris Compositions, Transcriptions, Editions
-- Index III: Authors and Other Text Sources

** Author **

DAN STEHMAN, Professor of Music at Los Angeles Valley College.

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