John Harbison: Requiem – Nashville Symphony Chorus, Nashville Symphony Orchestra – Giancarlo Guerrero, Jun Iwasaki (violin), Jessica Rivera (soprano), Michaela Martens (mezzo-soprano), Nicholas Phan (tenor), Kelly Markgraf (baritone) Naxos American Classics CD 8559841 TT: 54:00 (10/18/18) ****:

Completed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Pulitzer Prize-winner and MacArthur fellow John Harbison has composed a Requiem for our times — a moving choral work that incorporates the composer’s distinctive sensibilities while drawing deeply on the tradition of Latin sacred music. “I wanted my piece to have a sense of the inexorability of the passage of time,” the composer says, “for good and ill, of the commonality of love and loss.”

Portrait John Harbison

John Harbison
© Katrin Talbot

This is a deeply emotional work by the respected American composer, who has produced several symphonies, string quartets, and concerti for violin, viola, and bass viol (double bass).

While he started the work in 1985, the September 11 attacks brought his then unpublished work into clearer focus.

Although the Requiem has great joy, it’s interlaced with foreboding and sorrow. It’s the kind of music you will want to listen to multiple times, appreciating the skill of the composition and the sweep of the performances. The recording was done at the Laura Turner Concert Hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Tennessee.

It’s an excellent rendering of the performance with the chorus and soloists well placed in the sound field. The orchestra, along with the brass and percussion, are finely etched and dramatic in impact.

Highly recommended and kudos to Naxos for their continuing American Classics series which gifts us with these kinds of inspiring works.

—Mel Martin