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Beautiful 'Portrait' of Harrison

**** HARRISON: "A Portrait." Al Jarreau, vocalist; Maria Bachmann, violin; California Symphony, Barry Jekowsky, cond. (Argo)

January 04, 1998|Mark Swed

Lou Harrison, California's musical patriarch and one of the most infectious composers of the century, turned 80 last year and was honored near and far. Still, his music, so full of sunrises and rainbows, so jubilantly eclectic, so sweetly melodic, is still scantily represented on CD. Here, though, is a small treasure chest. It features the first recording of Harrison's Fourth Symphony, which he insists on titling "Last Symphony," a 40-minute beauty, deeply moving, but also deeply joyful, and with a wondrously strange final movement that includes chanted (marvelously, by Jarreau) Native American legends. The California Symphony, a newish Bay Area ensemble, is accomplished and Jekowsky, its music director, a spirited newcomer on the scene. A nice selection of smaller pieces, recent and from long ago, fills out the disc and hints at the irrepressibly global perspective of Harrison's music.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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