February 2019:
Madison Celebrates John Harbison’s 80th

Events Schedule - February 2019

On the occasion of his 80th birthday, Madison honors composer John Harbison & expresses gratitude for his contributions to the cultural life of our community,  including the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, co-directed by John & Rose Mary Harbison for the last 30 years.

ONGOING throughout the month

Memorial Library, UW-Madison - Main Lobby

This exhibit celebrates Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur Fellow John Harbison’s amazing – and ongoing – musical career, with a focus on his Madison connection, including works composed and premiered here, his new book on Bach, and the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival which he co-directs with Rose Mary Harbison held at the end of each summer in the refurbished barn on family property just outside the city.  


Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) and WORT Community Radio offer broadcast retrospectives throughout the month of February, showcasing the breadth of Harbison’s work, from large symphonic to intimate chamber and vocal music, and jazz. Tune in on your radio dial, or stream from the stations' websites.
www.wpr.org & www.wortfm.org

This schedule will be updated frequently, as hosts determine their programming. Check back often.


John Harbison: A Composer's Voice
Wisconsin Public Television Documentary

Linda Clauder narrates this handsome 1994 WPT documentary that generously profiles the Harbisons' life at
their Wisconsin farm, together with John's approach to composition, the state of classical music, and words of wisdom for future generations of musicians.
Especially welcome are Rose Mary's profound insights into John's music and its place within contemporary composition.   27:21



February 1 | 7:30 pm
Wisconsin Union Theater

Harbison’s Wind Quintet, a work of abundant imagination, is considered one of the modern masterpieces in the genre. One of his best known and most-often played works, Harbison here “unleashes the full power of the woodwind quintet.”

February 15 | 12:15 pm
First Unitarian Society

Performances by Mead Witter School of Music Faculty & Friends, including a preview of the upcoming Viola Sonata that receives its world premiere on February 17. Harbison will read from his new book, What Do We Make of Bach?, and will autograph copies (books will be available for purchase).

February 15 | 7:30 pm
February 16 | 8:00pm
February 17 | 2:30pm
Overture Hall

Considered one of Harbison’s most engaging orchestral works, his sparkling Most Often Used Chords was inspired by the “fundamentals of music” pages found on the covers of Italian music notebooks. An ingenious piece of spirited wit and generous humor, it is also a touching personal tribute to the raw materials of music. Enjoy a pre-concert conversation with the composer one hour before the concert begins.
The CD of The Most Often Used Chords and Harbison's book, What Do We Make of Bach?, will be available for purchase at intermission.

February 16 | 7:30pm
Morphy Recital Hall, UW Humanities Building

Bassoonist Marc Vallon, a native of France and prize-winner of two Premiere Prix from the Paris Conservatoire, includes Harbison's witty Canzonetta on his faculty recital. The New York Times characterized the work as  "a light diversion, a four‐way conversation piece that seems to end on a note of grudging agreement.” (Free)

February 17 | 9:00 & 11:00 am
First Unitarian Society

Harbison conducts the Society Choir in his
own choral settings of Emily Dickinson and his O Magnum Mysterium.

February 18 | 12:00 - 1:30pm
Mills Music Library: Seminar Room

Harbison will review and critique select student compositions.

February 22 | 12:15 pm
First Unitarian Society

Mosaic Chamber Players—with guest artists
John Harbison, piano and Rose Mary Harbison, violin— offer
chamber works of Harbison, Mozart, and Schoenberg.

February 24 | 9:00 & 11:00 am
First Unitarian Society

Music of Bach, performed by John & Rose Mary Harbison

(Date tbd - watch for this event later in the season)

World Premiere: a new motet

First Unitarian Society

Harbison’s vocal music a rarity in Madison, together with companion
works of Bach and Schütz, and the world premiere of a new motet.


"At 80, a famed composer celebrates: colleagues, admirers honor John Harbison"

Gayle Worland, Wisconsin State Journal, Feb 10, 2019


"Madison celebrates John Harbison, a source of great music: composer's 80th birthday inspires musical tributes"

Greg Hettmansberger, Madison Magazine/Channel 3000, Feb 5, 2019


"Prize-winning composer John Harbison has turned 80. In February, Madison will see many celebrations of his birthday."

Jacob Stockinger, The Well Tempered Ear, Jan 30, 2019


"A monthlong celebration of John Harbison: February brings many performances of the composer's music."

Greg Hettmansberger, Madison Magazine, February 1, 2019


“Announcing the world premiere of John Harbison’s new viola sonata”

Mead Witter School of Music, December 17, 2018


“Composer-in-Chief: Nearly 80, the award-winning John Harbison is busier than ever”

Mike Muckian, Isthmus, December 6, 2018


Events subject to change. Check here for updates.
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