First Rate Harrison from Fain, Boriskin, and the PostClassical Ensemble

Review by: David Hurwitz

Harrison

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 8

All of this music has been recorded before successfully, but this particular compilation works very well as a unified program, while the performances are second to none. Harrison’s Violin Concerto (really Concerto for Violin and Percussion) is a major masterpiece. Harmonically inspired by Berg, in that the violin line is what you might call “atonal-lyrical,” the opposition of a single solo cantabile instrument against the mass of unpitched percussion creates a distinctive expressive contrast unique in the instrumental literature. The mood is neither Asian nor Western avant-garde, but somehow a world unto itself, and utterly compelling.

Tim Fain plays a very passionate solo violin. Close miking, it sounds to me, exaggerates his ample vibrato to a degree, and prevents him from achieving a true pianissimo, but the balances still reveal every detail of the timbrally fascinating accompaniment, and the intensity is unrelenting. He’s more naturally pitted against the piano in the Grand Duo, a five-movement suite that includes one of Harrison’s signature “Stampedes”, along with a round, an air, and a very un-Polish concluding polka. Pianist Michael Boriskin gives an excellent account of himself as Fain’s partner. Double Music, for percussion, is a collaborative work with John Cage. It’s pretty well known in modern music circles, and this performance by the PostClassical Ensemble revels in its alluring sounds and infuriatingly repetitive rhythms. You’ll either love it or hate it–or perhaps a little of both.

Harrison was a composer of great imagination and inventiveness. His best work captures a sense of wonder and fantasy that’s very much in evidence here. Give it a shot.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None

  • HARRISON, LOU:
    Violin Concerto (for violin and percussion); Grand Duo; Double Music (with John Cage)

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