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John Harbison

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John Harris Harbison (born December 20, 1938 in Orange, New Jersey) is a composer, best known for his operas and large choral works.

Harbison won the prestigious BMI Foundation’s Student Composer Awards for composition at the age of sixteen in 1954. He studied music at Harvard University, where he sang with the Harvard Glee Club, and later at Princeton. He is an Institute Professor of music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a former student of Walter Piston and Roger Sessions. His works include several symphonies, string quartets, and concerti for violin, viola, and bass viol (double bass).

He won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1987 for The Flight into Egypt. He was nominated for a 2006 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance for his Mottetti di Montale.

The Metropolitan Opera commissioned Harbison’s The Great Gatsby to celebrate Maestro James Levine’s 25th anniversary with the company. The opera premiered on December 20, 1999, conducted by Levine and starring Jerry Hadley, Dawn Upshaw, Susan Graham, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Mark Baker, Dwayne Croft, and Richard Paul Fink.

Harbison was jointly commissioned by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue to write a piece for the historic “Papal Concert of Reconciliation.” The event was co-officiated by the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rav Elio Toaff, the Imam of the Mosque of Rome, Abdulawahab Hussein Gomaa, and His Holiness Pope John Paul II.

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