Lou Harrison: Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra; Concerto for Organ with Percussion Orchestra
While these are not among Lou Harrison's most frequently performed or popular works, the "Concerto for violin and percussion orchestra" (1940-1959) and the "Concerto for organ with percussion orchestra" (1972-1973) are still reasonably accessible with a little knowledge of their procedures. Harrison builds the melodic part of the "Violin Concerto" through a simple regenerative cell -- consisting of the minor second, major third, and major sixth -- which traverses the full chromatic without recourse to a rigid row structure. The highly rhythmic violin line is pleasantly contrasted by the exceptionally varied percussion ensemble, which at times produces the gamelan sound Harrison used in many of his later pieces. The more monumental "Organ Concerto" is built on an octatonic scale, and its symmetrical dissonances and figurations may be traced to the scale's even alternations between minor and major seconds. The music is vigorous and loud in the robust Allegro and the ecstatic Finale; but there are quieter moments in the middle movements that are haunting in their spareness and delicacy. Recorded in 1975 and 1977, these performances by violinist Eudice Shapiro, organist David Craighead, and the Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble, conducted by William Kraft, are clear in details and focused in intensity, though the ADD sound is a little flat and airless.