Harold Brown (1909-1979), violist, teacher, choral director, early 20th century American composer of classical music. Although we knew him as a pioneer in bringing early music to North America, we did not know about the considerable body of original work he composed – music rarely played and never recorded – that his close associates, students and colleagues insist we hear and share with a larger audience.
We are the Renaissance Chorus Association, and we want to bring Brown's original compositions to the music-loving public. Founded in 1952, the Renaissance Chorus of New York no longer exists, yet the Renaissance Chorus Association has carried forward the work of its founder and director, Harold Brown, to archive and circulate Renaissance choral music. More recently, the Association has accepted the mandate to begin bringing Brown’s original musical compositions to the public. We consider it an honor to do so. Recording a CD of some of his chamber music will begin in May of this year.
Well before founding the Renaissance Chorus and having completed his musical studies at Columbia University and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, Harold Brown was composing music for strings during the 1930s and ’40s. These compositions represent youthful, passionate writing for strings in a modal idiom with influences of Stravinsky and his era, as well as of viol music from the Renaissance. Ned Rorem says, in his 1994 book, Knowing When to Stop: a Memoir, “Harold’s pieces purvey a mysterious appeal (and a solid scaffolding) that I’ve never seen or heard since.” He also notes that Harold’s “not playing the game which is part of the rat race” deprived America’s music lovers of his music. With this project, we hope to rectify this loss.
We are currently seeking funds to complete the CD recording of Brown's chamber music, including his Bearns Prize winning 1930 String Quartet, his 1932 String Quartet and the String Quintet (with two violas) from1935. We are delighted to have in performance the Tessera Quartet (www.TesseraQuartet.com), Edward Klorman, Karen Ouzounian, Cordelia Paw and Emily Daggett Smith, with guest violist Louise Schulman, all of whom have been associated with Juilliard School of Music. Producer/engineer for the recording is Grammy Award winning Marc Aubort. Recording will be by ALBANY Records, specializing in American contemporary music, which has obtained a coveted Copland Fund Grant as seed money for this project. Another $2,500 would help greatly to make the project a resounding success.
To hear samples of Harold Brown's compositions for strings, in a preliminary performance by the same artists who will be recording them, go to www.RenaissanceChorus.org/music.
The work of Harold Brown, gifted composer of chamber and orchestral music, needs to be out there among the recordings of his peers — clearly interesting to students of early 20th century classical music, it would be heartily enjoyed by a much wider audience as well. We want to bring Brown’s passionate music to the attention of this and future generations; please help us to do so.
The Renaissance Chorus Association Inc., 116 Pinehurst Avenue, B61, New York, NY 10033, www.RenaissanceChorus.org, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization since 1960.
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