COMPOSERS: Ross Harris
ALBUM TITLE: Ross Harris
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: Ilya Gringolts (violin), Sally-Anne Russell (mezzo-soprano); Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra/Garry Walker, Eckehard Stier
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573532
This disc showcases two arresting works by New Zealand-based composer Ross Harris (b1945). Composed in 2010 and teetering between the tonal and atonal, Harris’s Violin Concerto No. 1 is striking in its capacity to shift between light and shade. The rhapsodic solo line (performed with grace and fire by Ilya Gringolts) sings almost constantly, twisting and diving across the work’s five movements which span the elegaic, the sardonic and the triumphant. The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra wind section gives an immaculate performance of Harris’s delicate, quasi-extemporised chamber textures.
Harris’s Violin Concerto is paired with the composer’s Fifth Symphony: premiered in 2014, it is a deftly-constructed exploration of the agonies of war. The work is underpinned by settings of three stark, moving poems by contemporary Hungarian poet Panni Palásti, recalling the violent siege of Budapest in 1944. Framed by two austere but fiercely beautiful adagio movements and a spiky pair of scherzos, the three sung movements are themselves mystical and restrained, with Sally-Anne Russell’s rich mezzo-soprano lending them a ghostly power.
General recording levels feel a touch muted to do full justice to Harris’s complex musical textures, but the performances are excellent and the disc offers listeners a welcome encounter with this fine composer’s work.