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Harbison: Symphony No. 5
Harbison: Symphony No. 6
Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer John Harbison's six symphonies span three decades of his life. Each takes a unique view of this important genre while revealing the evolution of his own style. The Fifth and Sixth symphonies were both commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its music director James Levine, a champion of Harbison's work. Under Maestro Levine's influence, both works feature a vocal component. The Fifth Symphony, Harbison's longest, sets three poems on the Orpheus myth by Czeslaw Milosz (the first two movements, for baritone and orchestra), Louise Glück (movement three, for mezzo-soprano), and Rilke (the finale, for mezzo-soprano and baritone). This recording was made from BSO performances led by Jirí Belohlávek in December 2011, and features baritone Gerald Finley and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke. The Sixth Symphony, which Harbison has described as an homage to James Levine, is the composer's most unusual in form. Its first movement is a highly lyrical mezzo-soprano setting of a James Wright poem, employing a reduced orchestra; the remaining three, larger movements for big orchestra develop and explore the music of the first. This recording is from the January 2012 world premiere performances by the BSO with conductor David Zinman and featuring mezzo-soprano Paula Murrihy.