American Classics - Harris: Symphonies 3 & 4 "Folksong Symphony" / Alsop, Colorado Symphony Orchestra

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I have to confess that I was a bit concerned at the opening of this new performance of Roy Harris' Third Symphony, where Marin Alsop and the otherwise very good Colorado Symphony fail to match the urgency and passion of Bernstein's benchmark Sony recording. Once the piece gets moving, however, the music quickly builds to an explosive account of the big fugue, with brilliant contributions from the brass, while the tragic conclusion with its pounding timpani pedal is perhaps the most intense yet captured on disc. Certainly no one has made the final bars sound more convincing or inevitable. Just a touch more drive at the very beginning and this might have been the new reference recording for the work, but as it is my reservations are minuscule and it's definitely a "keeper".

Having a modern recording on hand of the delightful "Folk Song Symphony" certainly adds to the disc's attractions. There's only one other that enjoyed general circulation, Golschmann's on Vanguard, and heaven only knows if it's still available. In any case, this one is definitely superior sonically, though I marginally prefer the earlier version's quicker tempos in Western Cowboy and Negro Fantasy (the second and sixth movements, respectively). Alsop still has the edge, though, in terms of both singing and playing, and her quicker sections pack an even bigger punch than the Vanguard release. This is a really attractive work that ought to be better known. If the composer in question had been English/Irish (and some of the tunes actually are: The Girl I Left Behind Me, a.k.a. The Wandering Laborer, also appears in Hamilton Harty's "Irish" Symphony), we'd no doubt have a plethora of modern recordings from which to choose. Never mind: this one will do very nicely.
--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8559227

  • UPC: 636943922729

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Roy Harris

  • Conductor: Marin Alsop

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Colorado Symphony, Colorado Symphony Chorus