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on 2 October 2009
This is the first Roy Harris work I've heard. Symphony #3 is simply gorgeous. It's practically the only thing I've listened to for the last month. There are suggestions that this is not a great performance, but having just heard Bernstein's version, I have to disagree. Bernstein certainly milks it more, it's more romantic and he draws some lovely sounds from the orchestra, but there are many sections in this Naxos recording that I far prefer. I like the calm, refined sound in the Naxos. The shimmering violins are delicious in the Naxos and all but drowned out in Bernstein. While I see what he was getting at, the drums towards the end of the Bernstein version are just not visceral enough. But they're fabulous in the Naxos version. On the other hand there are many underplayed aspects of the orchestration in the Naxos version, and its wonderful to be able to hear these parts properly in Bernstein. My point is that this is a good version that's worth buying, particularly if you haven't heard this wonderful symphony before.

The folk song symphony is amusing. It reminds me of Copland's old american songs that I used to love many moons ago. It's more sophisticated and interesting than Copland's songs, but I prefer solo to massed voices.
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VINE VOICEon 7 December 2006
Years, decades ago I bought a recording of Sibelius' 5th Symphony conducted by Serge Koussevitsky. On the other side was the 3rd Symphony of Roy Harris, a composer I'd never even heard of before. The recording was crude by today's standards, but the performance was electrifying, and I soon fell in love with this music. Later I was privileged to hear a live performance conducted by Leonard Bernstein, and this expanded my appreciation even more. The old vinyl recording is long gone, and I thought I'd like to hear the 3rd Symphony again, so I bought this one. Perhaps I'd been spoiled, but the recording by Marin Alsop and the Colorado Symphony doesn't quite do it for me. I don't know whether the problem is with the performance or the recording. I'm no musician, and my ability to express myself in technical musical language is poor, but here goes.... This is one of the greatest American symphonies. In less than twenty minutes it can take you to vast plains, big skies and endless snow-capped peaks. It should be bursting with self-confidence, every instrument clear and vying for our attention. This offering seems a little, well.... muddy. Given the budget price of this CD, perhaps I'm being a little harsh on it. It's enjoyable enough, but if your a fan of this music you might want to splash out on one of the other offerings available.

My enjoyment of the 'Folk Song Symphony' wasn't affected by my having heard it before, and I really did enjoy it. Musically it is no match for the 3rd Symphony (in spite of being over twice as long), but perhaps it will grow on me. The singing by the Colorado Symphony Chorus is vigorous, with the words crystal clear. The tunes are all familiar and accessible.

This is a generally good CD, and good value for money, but merits only three stars because of the somewhat lacklustre rendition of one of my favourite symphonies.
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on 31 August 2015
I bought this as a recommended introduction to the music of Roy Harris. It's OK, and Naxos, as always are to be applauded for introducing us to another US composer that deserves to be better known than he currently is. Symphony 3 needs a few hearings before you warm to its dark tones, but for it to be described as 'the first great symphony by an American composer' seems unjustified, while No.4 offers a fun mix of folk tunes that give you a feeling of the Old West, despite the fact it was written in 1939. It offers a more approachable introduction to his 13 symphonies, which run from 1933 to 1976.

Probably worth exploring more of his music through the excellent review that Amazon allows of individual albums.
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on 2 January 2008
Harris's Third is a glorious work, suggesting vast open spaces and a typically pioneering American spirit. It should soar (as it does in Bernstein's version, once coupled with an equally noble Copland Third). This Naxos performance is a let down, however. It's all too leaden and earth-bound; nothing soars and the recording quality is well below this company's normally high standards. The Colorado orchestra sounds second rate and Alsop is merely routine. It's a great pity because I had high hopes, especially given the opportunity to hear an unfamiliar Harris symphony, the 4th, which is twice as long as the great 3rd. Twice as long and half as inspired, as it turns out. Seek out Bernstein for the real thing.
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on 5 February 2010
I got this CD solely for Harris' 4th, and I do agree with Guy Whit's comments about the 3rd symphony. That all the same notes are played is the only similarity this version has with Bernstein's. This is commonly regarded as THE American symphony, and something of the wide open spaces and the gritty spirit that 'won the West' should be very apparent in any reading. Yet, the work is denied so much of the shaping and build-up of the major tensions and releases, that all the passions are accordingly pale reflections. I found myself becoming really stressed, not because of emotional reaction to the playing, but because I desperately longed for SOME defining rubato, some breath, some subtle variation in pace to build up to a telling moment. It didn't happen. The telling moments came and went unnoticed. The crucial opening section, for example, offers little drama or conviction, and to make matters worse, I felt there was a loss of momentum in the second half of the work.
Yes, there is clarity of playing from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and this version very probably benefits from more advanced recording techniques than the Bernstein, but, if pressed - and it would be ideal to have everything - I have to say, in this particular instance, I am less concerned with the recording being an exemplar of sound recording technology, than I might be were it a Baroque concerto.
It simply lacks the necessary emotional commitment, which is all the more puzzling as Alsop studied under Bernstein. I have read a favourable review of this recording which states that Alsop 'lets the music speak for itself'. For those who think this way it is worth remembering that there is no such thing as self-interpreting music - all music has to be interpreted, that's why we have different versions by different conductors. With the Colorado Orchestra we are sitting in a gently-swaying mock stagecoach on a film set, with an imitation backdrop going past on an unrelenting scenery roller. Whatever the other version's age and imperfections, with Bernstein we are riding out on top, in the real American air, with the exhilaration of the real risks taken and the real passions felt.
However, for all my disappointment with the 3rd symphony, I was delighted with Alsop's reading of the 4th. The contrast is amazing - Alsop directs the Colorado Chorus and Symphony Orchestra with great aplomb, the singing is strong and the instrumental support is very refined and powerful throughout. The CD is worth buying for the 4th symphony alone.
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on 4 April 2015
Very good product and service
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