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Truman HARRIS (b.1945)
Rosemoor Suite, for wind quartet (2015) [12:09]
Aulos Triptych, for three flutes and piano (2015) [8:47]
Horn Concertino (2001) [16:49]
Flowers, for wind sextet and piano (2006) [7:46]
Sonata for two bassoons and piano (2008) [14:34]
Flute Concertino (2003) [15:19]
Laurel Bennert Ohlson (horn)
Alice Kogan Weinreb, Leah Arsenault Barrick (flute)
Audrey Andrist (piano)
Eclipse Chamber Orchestra/Sylvia Alimena
rec. 2006-16, George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Alexandria, USA; Dekelboum Concert Hall, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
World premiere recordings
Reviewed as lossless (wav) press preview.
NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559858 [75:33]

Sorting out all the details of dates, venues and who performs what took a great deal longer than to decide that I was enjoying this recording. This is a real find for those who, like me, approach contemporary classical and jazz with extreme caution. I thought at first that this might be music by Roy Harris, whose Third Symphony I rate as one of the glories of twentieth-century American music. Truman Harris’s work displays the same immediacy of appeal, though it would be hard to argue that anything here quite approaches the quality of his near-namesake.

Much of this music, for various chamber ensembles, has the appeal and civilised style of composers like Jean Françaix from a century ago. I know that will rule it out immediately for many of our readers, but it’s a real plus for me. The title track, A Warm Day in Winter, the third part of the Aulos Triptych, would be a good place to check the music out – it’s available for subscribers to the invaluable Naxos Music Library.

It must have been quite a balmy day, because the music is very affable, but elsewhere there’s a touch of sharpness; again, however, it’s Poulenc that comes to mind rather than anything more recent. And there’s more than a hint of the wide-open spaces of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Symphony No.3 in the Horn Concertino. It’s the most substantial work on the album and, like the Flute Concertino and most of the other music, arose from Truman Harris’s tenure as assistant principal bassoonist with the Washington National Symphony Orchestra and bassoonist with the Capitol Wind Quintet and the Eclipse Chamber Orchestra, the latter featuring in the two concertinos. The second movement of the Horn Concertino, andante, entitled Arias and Recitatives, didn’t evoke vocal music for me, despite the title, but it does dig into a wistful and thoughtful mood.

I don’t imagine that anyone else has composed a piece for two bassoons and piano – clearly a work for Harris’s own repertoire, though he leaves it here in the capable hands of Susan Heinemann and Steven Wilson.

There’s sufficient on this recording to demonstrate the high regard in which Truman Harris is held by his fellow musicians, all of whom turn in performances that I hardly imagine could be bettered – not that we seem likely to have another recording for comparison. These are all listed as world premiere recordings; I certainly didn’t find anything else by Harris on CD or download.

Not undiscovered masterpieces, then, but very approachable and enjoyable music in performances and recording that do it justice. I heard this in CD-quality wav sound, in which form it’s very good; there’s also a 24-bit download from some dealers. Harris’s own notes round off a very worthwhile CD, presenting another example of the dedication of Naxos to out-of-the-way repertoire.

PPresto are currently offering 24-bit hi-res Naxos downloads for £3.94, less than the cost of 16-bit, not much more than mp3, and much less than the £10.15 being asked for the CD by one dealer (target price on disc £7.50, currently reduced to £6.30). Nor should you pay the same dealer’s £7.89 for mp3, which you can find on offer for £3.60. It’s never been more important to shop around. In one form or another, those who yearn for tuneful and approachable contemporary music should check this one out.

Brian Wilson

Previous review: Michael Wilkinson

Other performers
Nicholas Stovall (oboe), Paul Cigan (clarinet), Truman Harris (bassoon), Aaron Goldman (flute), Carole Bean (flute), Susan Heineman (bassoon), Steven Wilson (bassoon)

 



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