Harbach Vol. 7: Music for Strings

Record Label: MSR Classics
Release Date: May 2011

Vesselin Gellev, Solo Violin

Solo Quintet
Vesselin Gellev, Violin I
Clare Duckworth, Violin II
Robert Duncan, Viola
Susanne Beer, Violoncello
Kevin Rundell, Double Bass


“[In Memoriam is] simply stone beautiful. I worried that the emotional climax of the piece occurs less than half-way in – a real risk. How could she possibly sustain interest? Yet the piece gripped me to the end. I especially enjoyed her occasional elongation of phrases by an extra beat, as if the mind stopped to reflect on a particular soul now gone… [the Polka] exudes lightness and charm, especially in its gently syncopated first theme. Harbach arranges it with skill and taste… The LPO does a very fine job… The entire production is quite good, from recording to liner notes.”
Steve Schwartz ClassicalNet [November 2014]

“the London Philharmonic…really excels in the Music for Strings. Rarely have I heard the orchestra’s string section play with such golden tone as in the lush and lavish “Hommage” first movement of the Sinfonietta. Conductor David Angus judges both tempo and textures perfectly. Harbach’s interior, deep side is heard in the In Memoriam: Turn Round, O My Soul (how perfectly judged are the low string pizzicatos around a minute in), while the Freedom Suite owes much to Harbach’s interest in strong women (here Harriet Scott). The use of spirituals is to the forefront here, and Harbach weaves them miraculously into her tapestry… The Two Songs from The Sacred Harp exude confidence, both from composer and performers. They are highly atmospheric miniatures, too… Interestingly, Nights in Timişoara invokes the Romanian people and the city that is known as “the city of flowers.” It is a more sophisticated piece, contrasting with the final item, an arrangement of Kate Chopin’s Lilia Polka for strings. Delightful… vibrant, stirring music that begs to be heard. Harbach is an individual voice of great skill.”
Colin Clarke, Fanfare [July/August 2012]

“My late MusicWeb International colleague Bob Briggs was passionate about the music of Barbara Harbach …and I’m going to join Bob in enthusiastic advocacy of her music… Her works are distinctive and immediately appealing. This is a tonal, in some ways old-fashioned American sound, with plaintive harmonies, hymn-like tunes, and a simple beauty throughout. But I’m misusing the word simple, because Harbach’s music is finely crafted at all times; this is a composer whose every stroke makes her ability clear… It’s hard to describe Harbach’s style because she falls in that unfortunate no-man’s-land of contemporary composition: music that’s undeniably rewarding to listen to from the very start, and appealing to everybody, but not at all kitschy, pandering or simplistic. New should always mean different, and while Harbach has clear antecedents she’s no imitation, but new shouldn’t always mean taxing, and this CD is not… for those who admire polished string music in the tradition of Barber, Vaughan Williams, and Grieg, with a generous dollop of Americana, this album will be a treat. I’ll be seeking out more of Harbach’s music in time; the previous volumes in this series have been well-loved on this site too. Truly a voice worth hearing.”
Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International [July 2012]

“[Harbach has] a sense of lyricism and an appreciation for beauty and elegance… Freedom Suite, from 2010, is a very strong piece… convincing scoring and moments of sublimity… Harbach’s writing is shot through with Americana—folk songs, spirituals, Sacred Harp melodies, etc… ‘Remember the Ladies Tango’ is a charmer, and the whole Demarest Suite is joyful and skillfully written.”
Estep, American Record Guide [September/October 2012]

“everything here is quite likeable and non-weighty and certainly worth one’s time”
Daniel Coombs, Audiophile Audition [May 2012]

Barbara Harbach is WFIU’s Featured Contemporary Composer for February 2012
WFIU Radio: Arts & Music, Indiana [February 2012]