John Harbison is an American composer whose work is notable for its astonishing range and diversity. He has written for every conceivable type of concert performance and is also considered original and accessible for a wide range of audiences. His major works include four string quartets, four symphonies, the 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning cantata The Flight into Egypt and three operas, including "The Great Gatsby," which was commissioned by The Metropolitan Opera and first performed in December 1999. Harbison has been composer-in-residence with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Santa Fe Chamber Festival, the American Academy in Rome, Tanglewood, the California Institute for the Arts and Chamber Music West. He is also an Institute Professor at MIT and the Acting Artistic Director of Emmanuel Music. Harbison holds an MFA from Princeton University.
Question: Which composers influenced you most?
John Harbison: Mostly the musicians that I learned from and whose music I was studying and playing, some of whom I knew if they were alive. These came from very many fields of music. Probably Stravinsky who was still alive, and who I did witness as a young kid conducting, and whose music I knew at a very early age. For some of that period Bartok was still around. Jazz musicians that I knew really well from the recordings who I occasionally heard live, Thelonious Monk was probably most important or Oscar Peterson – I just felt they were almost like my friends. I adopted them. Bach, who was probably from the very beginning the first music I knew, and the first music that my father taught me to play, and certainly the music that I continue to be the most interested in over time.
Recorded On: 6/12/07