Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Lou Harrison

Chamber & Gamelan Works & Music for Tuned Guitar

Chamber & Gamelan Works * Concerto in Slendro * Main Bersama-Sama * Threnody for Carlos Chávez * Serenade for Betty Freeman and Franco Assetto * String Quartet Set * Suite for Percussion

Scott L. Hartman, French horn
Susan Bates, violin
Lou Harrison, suling
Gamelan Sekar Kembar
Kronos Quartet
Manhattan Percussion Ensemble Ensemble/Robert Hughes

New World Records 80643-2

Lou Harrison (1917-2003) is well represented by recordings and these two discs range widely amongst his diverse interests, far from the mainstream classical concert world.

It is all easy listening, but not too simple, and conveys a captivating joie de vivre.

The New World disc has a wide range of instrumentation, with tack pianos, gamelan a suite for percussion and a substantial string quartet (26'27", Kronos Quartet).

Recommendable as a perfect introduction to the music of Lou Harrison by Raymond Tuttle; his review for Classical Net makes a detailed one from me redundant. He explains that this is a re-issue of earlier discs and that "these performances have quite a history, but all of them are first-class – nay, definitive".

por Gitaro

Suites Nos 1 & 2;
Suite for National Steel Guitar

Guitars: John Schneider


The new MODE disc of guitar music explores Harrison's interest in the variety of tuning temperaments, which are of course commonplace for early keyboard music, but impossible with fixed fretted instruments.

As the guitar lends itself to the straight, fixed fret equal temperament tuning system, Harrison was initially put off composing for the instrument until the early 1950’s when he experimented with tuning various instruments to Just Intonation alone.

With the invention of Tom Stone’s guitar with removable fingerboards, Harrison set about composing five guitar suites with five different 'just intonation' tunings (pictured) which are contained on this CD. John Schneider has explored many alternative guitars with adjustable frets. He also uses steel strings for one of his instruments.

Harrison has strong musical influences in all of these works. They are mostly based on various tuning systems and scales found in music cultures of India, China and the Middle East. The music, even of simplistic single line melodies, suits the just intonation tuned guitar very well due to the clarity and resonances produced.

There were many evocative and melancholic moments especially in particular the Music for Bill and Me. In contrast, Harrison incorporates other instruments in his Serenade for Guitar and lively percussion interjections accompany the solo guitar. In Homage to Pacifica he uses just intonation gamelan and guitar, where both sound worlds blend together very well.

The CD provides further interest in demonstrating the versatility of the guitar and its adaptability and suitability with other instrumentations. Further exploration for future development of the just intonation guitar and its repertoire is indicated.

A must for young guitarists keen to widen their horizons. At the least, it will sharpen your ears !

Georgina Whitehead & Peter Grahame Woolf

See also on Musical Pointers:
: http://www.musicalpointers.co.uk/reviews/cddvd/Fiddlesticks.html