Remembering Gatsby: Foxtrot for Orchestra (1985)

by John Harbison (1938-present)


Sponsored by NV Energy

About the Composer

John Harbison was born in Orange, New Jersey on December 20, 1938. His upbringing was quite musical starting with improvising on the piano at the young age of five years old and eventually starting his own jazz band at the age of twelve. He attended Harvard University for his undergraduate degree and earned an MFA from Princeton University.

Harbison’s rewards and distinctions are numerous and range from the Pulitzer Prize to the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities. Harbison’s compositions have been premiered at many musical institutions including the Metropolitan Opera, the Chicago Lyric Opera, The Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and at the Santa Fe and Aspen music festivals.

John Harbison has been a composer-in-residence with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and several music festivals that include Tanglewood, Marlboro, and Aspen. He is Acting Artistic Director of Emmanuel Music in Boston, co-Artistic Director of the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival, and President of the Copland Fund.


About this Piece

Completed in the summer of 1985 in Token Creek, Wisconsin, Remembering Gatsby (Foxtrot for Orchestra), was dedicated to the Atlanta Symphony and its Music Director at the time, Robert Shaw. Running roughly eight minutes in length, the piece starts with a songful passage with the full orchestra; this represents Gatsby’s vision of the green light on Daisy’s dock. The foxtrot then begins with a twenties tune led by a soprano saxophone. The brief coda combines the recent motives and makes reference to a telephone bell and car horns, which Harbison describes as “instruments of Gatsby’s fate”.

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