He would have turned 100 in 2017: Lou Harrison was a dancer, a linguistic genius and a very innovative composer. As Harrison wrote a great deal for percussion, the musicians of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra are seizing this opportunity with no fewer than four percussionists performing in the Recital Hall. They will be playing Double Music, which Harrison wrote together with John Cage in 1941. In fact, both of them wrote two percussion parts independently of each other, literally ‘double’ music. It is also inexplicably beautiful work, and has become a twentieth-century classic, serving as the raison d’être of many a percussion ensemble.
Harrison’s later works are typically meditative, melodious and inspired by the East. Songs in the Forest is a good example, evoking the vast natural world of North America. In Varied Trio for violin, piano and percussion, the percussionist plays pans and rice bowls of various sizes.
Harrison was an ardent advocate of Charles Ives, whose eclectic Piano Trio has also been programmed. The many quotations of popular tunes and folk songs are a characteristic feature of the work. Another kindred spirit was George Crumb, whose mysterious Vox balaenae (Voice of the Whale) can be described as whale music for three masked musicians.
For fans of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Close-up concerts given in the Recital Hall provide a fantastic opportunity to get acquainted with individual musicians. In this concert series, they perform chamber music in small ensembles, allowing you to enjoy their unique musical personalities and abilities.