Lou Harrison: Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra, Robert Linn: Concertino for Violin and Wind Octet, Eudice Shapiro, violin, William Kraft, conductor. The Los Angeles Percussion Orchestra and the Winds of the Crystal Chamber Orchestra.
LOU HARRISON: Koncherto por la Violono Kun Perkuta Orkestra.
Lou Harrison is generally considered one of America's most gifted and inventive composers. Born in Portland, Oregon, in 1917, he moved to California in 1926 and later studied at San Francisco State College. Two of his most important teachers were Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg.
Like John Cage, another student of Cowell, Harrison became fascinated by strange and unorthodox sonorities, and incorporated in some of his works such curious sounds as those from vibrating automobile brake drums, lengths of plumber's pipes, galvanized wash-tubs, coffee cans, and flower pots.
The 'Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra" employs all of these instruments. Also used are wind chimes, clock coils set in a base made out of a guitar, and a string bass played by striking the strings with metal beaters. It is to the immense credit of Lou Harrison (and the excellent musicians heard in this performance) that the work does not sound like random noise and junk instruments. It is a cohesive work of great power and beauty.
The Composer writes the following about the formal aspects of his "Koncherto": This work, though it is more immediately a romantic one and was noticeably inspired by the Berg Violin Concerto, nonetheless finds its sold groundwork and foundation in world music.
It is among many of my compositions which follow the pattern of having a single melodic part accompanied (or enhanced) by rhythmic percussion, either with or without an additional drone. The model is, of course, world-wide. This is the standard usage in India, in Islam, in Sinitic folk (if not in the cultivated) music, in Africa -- and where not else?
The use of a modern European instrument as soloist, the mixture of "junk" instruments with standard ones in the percussion section, and the employment of romantic concerto form constitute the only novelties, from the world point of view.
Quite full sketches of this koncherto (the language of the title is Esperanto, the international language approved by UNESCO) were made in 1940. In 1959 my friend Anahid Ajemin offered to premiere a complete version and I succeeded in readying it for her concert of that year. Subsequently the work has had multiple performances by Eudice Shapiro.
For those who share my "how-to-do-it" interests, allow me to explain the most interesting feature of the solo part. From beginning to end of the composition, the violin plays only three melodic intervals: the "minor second", the "major third", and the "major sixth" -- even the beginnings of phrases are connected to their predecessors by one of these three intervals.
From any tone, then, the compositional choice was one out of six possible ones. This method of "Interval Controls" I first conceived in the middle "30's" and have used in many works. It is, of course, a good way, other than Schoenberg's "12-tone system", with which to compose predominantly chromatic music.
Typed by Cheryl Vega 6-16-95