*This was a request by Tapirman* Lou Harrison's Symphony in G (1966) may surprise those who think of his music primarily as a blending of East and West. Here, Harrison is a relatively young composer writing in the earnest manner of the time. In his words: "The whole work, though serially composed . . . is nonetheless tonally centered on the note G. In the first three movements the technique is classical 12-tone procedure, but in the finale I have . . . written freely in the "grand manner". The outer movements have dramatic urgency typical of contemporaneous symphonies by Peter Mennin or William Schuman. Only in the third movement do we have a hint of the extended eclecticism that was to become so much a feature of Harrison's later works. Entitled "Scherzo," it consists of four successive pieces: a nervous "Waltz" for strings; a barrel-house "Polka" for solo clarinet balanced by sassy brass licks; a gorgeous "Song" for the cello section accompanied by harp arpeggios and evoking comparison with Saint-Saens' "Swan"; and a scholarly "Rondeau" for piano, tack piano (plucked resonance), and harp. This impressive work is given an outstanding reading by Gerhard Samuel who premiered the work, and according to the composer, played an important part in its gestation.
Undoubtedly a factor in the continuing popularity of Carl Ruggles's music is its association with certain aspects of our mythical, composite American character. Ruggles (1876-1971) typifies uncompromising "individualism" and "ruggedness." Organum (1945) and Men and Mountains (1924-1935) are excellent representative pieces from his few compositions. Organum is a shorter, one-movement work. Men and Mountains is divided into three parts: "Men," "Lilacs," and "Marching Mountains." Ruggle's style is singular and confined. Moving from piece to piece, one has the impression of hearing a continuing work, with new themes subjected to the same process: a waxing and waning of definable but nevertheless amorphous motives, each contrapuntal line propelled at its own pace. Amid these powerfully surging sections are quiet interludes, and dissonance prevails in both. Enjoy.