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John Harbison

Publisher: AMP

Crossroads (orchestra version) (2012)
Text Writer
Louise Gl├╝ck
Associated Music Publishers Inc
Soloists and Orchestra
Sub Category
Soloists and String Orchestra
Year Composed
13 Minutes
Soprano or Mezzo-soprano
Solo Instrument(s)
Programme Note
John Harbison Crossroads (orchestra version) (2012)
Premiere of the orchestra version:
September 19 2013
Kelley O'Connor, mezzo-soprano
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Edo de Waart, conductor
Stillwater, MN

Louise Glück
"Twilight," "Primavera," and "Crossroads" from A Village Life

Related works:
   Crossroads (chamber version)
   Crossroads (orchestra version)

Composer note:
Crossroads, for Soprano or Mezzo-soprano, Oboe, and Strings was co-commissioned by the following organizations and ensembles: Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music, La Jolla Music Society for SummerFest, and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, with additional support from Atlanta Chamber Players, Blair School of Music-Vanderbilt University, Chamber Music Amarillo/Harrington String Quartet/Amy Goeser Kolb, Chamber Music Northwest, Chesapeake Chamber Music, Network for New Music, Oberlin Conservatory, Orchestra of St. Luke's, San Francisco Symphony, Serenata of Santa Fe, Texas Tech University School of Music, and Winsor Music.

This piece represents my third musical encounter with Louise Glück's poetry. In my Symphony No. 5, her poem "Relic" offers a kind of rejoinder, a Euridice counterforce to Czeslaw Milosz' retelling of the Orpheus story. In The Seven Ages, six of the poems are chosen to follow that book's hidden narrative. The shape of her lines and the emotional regions they inhabit forced me to find some new musical solutions, and left a lot of questions about how to do this unanswered.

When Glück published A Village Life in 2009, I noticed a new direction: the book seemed to originate in a community, in which isolation was both ameliorated and more deeply experienced, something like what I register in Leopardi's poems. I wanted to engage with these poems partly to add voice to this new direction, to affirm it, and to find whatever new compositional skills it required.

Each of the three settings is preceded by the same Refrain, which I took to be a location, the community norm, from which the music can depart.

I am grateful to the oboist Peggy Pearson for initiating the co-commissioning process, and to the many participants for their support.

— John Harbison

[Harbison] skillfully pared back textures so words could travel easily. The spring of the second movement found form in jumpy harmonics, reaching up like delicate, green shoots.
Peter Dobrin, Philadelphia Inquirer,08/04/2014
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