The Music of Harold Farberman

The Music of Harold Farberman, vol

The Music of Harold Farberman, vol. 2


The Great American Cowboy Suite

War Cry on a Prayer Feather

Elegy for Strings

The Little Boy (or Girl) and the Tree Branch

Symphony Number One for Strings and Percussion,

An Homage to the Dance



THEA MANN, narrator





Harold Farberman, Composer

Harold Farberman's career as a conductor has overshadowed his achievements as a composer. In fact, while a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Farberman turned first to composition as a further creative outlet, which in turn led to his more visible conducting career. From the mid-fifties onward, when he composed his first work, Evolution, for soprano, french horn and seven percussionists, Farberman has never stopped creating music.

Harold Farberman was born on November 2, 1929 on New York City's Lower East Side. Coming from a family of musicians (his father was the drummer in a famous 1920s klezmer band led by Schleomke Beckerman; his eldest brother was also a drummer) it seemed inevitable that he pursue music as a career. After graduating from The Juilliard School of Music on a percussion scholarship in 1951, he immediately joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) percussion section and became the youngest member of the orchestra at that time. Incidentally, Farberman has the distinction of being the only Juilliard instrumental graduate who has been invited back as a conductor of its various orchestras and as a composer—he was commissioned to write an opera for the opening of The Juilliard Opera Theater (The Losers).

With a performer's knowledge of percussion instruments and a dissatisfaction with their conventional treatment, Farberman became an early advocate for the use of percussion sonorities as a major voice in compositional structures. His very first work, Evolution, written in 1954 before he began formal studies in composition, is scored for over one hundred percussion instruments and has been recorded four times, once by Leopold Stokowski.

After hearing Evolution, Aaron Copland invited Farberman to study with him at Tanglewood in 1955. That short involvement with Copland strengthened Farberman's resolve to acquire more compositional skills, and during his 12 year tenure with the BSO he earned a Masters Degree in Composition from The New England Conservatory.

Very quickly Farberman's music caught the attention of the general public. In 1956 the Quartet for Flute, Oboe, Viola and Cello received first prize in the New England Composer's Competition. Walter Piston headed the jury. In 1957, Greek Scene, a trio for soprano, piano and percussion was chosen to represent the United States in an International Composer's Symposium held in Paris. Commissions from ensembles and orchestras, grants and awards from the NEA and State Arts Councils, and publications with various firms soon followed. Much of Harold Farberman's music has now been placed with the Cortelu Publishing Company. He is a member of BMI.

Farberman has written music for various chamber-size ensembles, large orchestras, concertos, operas, ballets and films. He has been fortunate. Every piece he has written has been performed, and much of his music has been recorded.

Albany Records has collected many of the earliest recordings and will create an archive of Harold Farberman's music. This is Volume Two.

The Music

Unlike Volume One (Albany Records TROY 402) which was entirely devoted to early chamber music, Volume Two is music for the orchestra. The musical agenda is different for each work: a film score, a song cycle, a short Elegy for strings, a fable for children and a symphony for percussion and strings. Atonality and tonality, including a nod to the American “pop” culture of the 50s, are employed in contrasting structures and differing styles. Incisive rhythms and a full color palette remain a constant.


from the film The Great American Cowboy


2-2-2-2/ 4-3-3-1/ timp, 3 perc/ strings/ banjo and guitar optional

Premiere: April 16, 1980, Westchester State College Orchestra, Lancaster, PA.

Jacques Voois, conductor

Breakout and Ride—Championship Belts, Ropes and Saddles—Head to Head Competition—Title and Oldest Living Cowboy—Killer Horse—Mud Rodeo—Clowns—Prelude to Bull Wrestling—Back Home

During my tenure as Music Director of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra, a board member, Irving Loube, asked me to write the music for a documentary film about cowboys and the rodeo. He came to my house and projected a rough-cut on the dining room wall. Keith Merrill, the director of the film, had created a sensitive, beautiful work and I agreed to provide the music. The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1973.

The Great American Cowboy is a documentary about the year long struggle between two professional rodeo cowboys competing for the rodeo championship belt and with it the title of “Great American Cowboy.” The film has very little dialogue and required more than sixty minutes of music for a symphony orchestra. The “set” is the rodeo: mean bucking horses, menacing bulls, cow-bells, clowns, and a multitude of cowboys with riding and roping skills. The Suite was created from the film cues listed above. Two trumpets represent the competing cowboys.


A Song Cycle for Soprano and Baritone, 1975

Lucy Shelton, soprano; Leon Williams, Baritone

Based on the poetry of the Taos Indians of New Mexico as transcribed by Nancy Woods

3-3-3-3/4-3-3-1/timp,3-4 perc/mandolin,

accordion, hp/strings

Premiere: November 11, 1976, Colorado Springs Symphony, Colorado Springs, CO. Harold Farberman, conductor

FOOTPRINT Soprano and Baritone: “In the distance of my years I have covered myself with time. Now we are but a footprint on the earth, a wing against the sky. A shadow in the water, a voice above the fire. I am one footstep going on. Yet, I have spun a beautiful melody through time. The first sound ever heard I am, the last echo of a final word. Now we go unheard. We are not important”

SUN DIED Baritone: “The rivers ran with fire, the oceans roared with flame. The mountains broke and crumbled and the wounded Earth cried out.

Soprano: Oh, my gentle village, fierce, my powerful people, weak.

Both: We must pray for strength, we must show ourselves together even when we are only one. My people turned to the angry sky and prayed to the stars, which pierced the night and set the whispering moon on fire. They prayed to the hollering sun. But the sun gave up and died.”

MY SON Soprano: “The world out there called to my son. He said to me-

Baritone: Old woman who dwells in last year. Old woman who sings old songs. Wake up! and see the world as it really is.

Soprano: A long time passed, and then my son returned. He said, “the world out there is like-

Baritone: fire that has fallen into water. The white man tries to plant himself but will blow away in the wind, because he is born with wheels.

Soprano and Baritone: There is no music either.”

DANCE - QUIET TIME Soprano: “When I danced to the sun and the wind, my head touched the clouds and the rainbow ran through my eyes. All of my life rolled out from my feet, which touched the earth and danced and danced to the drums in my heart. My feet kept dancing so hard I wore a spot in the earth at the same time I made a hole in the sky.

I am the music I dance. I am the beat of time.” (no break to QUIET TIME)

“It is our quiet time. We do not speak, because the voices are within us. We do not walk because the Earth is all within us. We do not dance because the music has lifted us to a place where the spirit is. It is our quiet time. We rest with all of nature.”

MY PEOPLE Soprano and Baritone: “The land I walk on is an ocean of concrete, covering the paths my people used to take. As I walk I hear the voices of my people in the earth, weeping in their loneliness. I see the blood of my people in every blade of grass. I feel the spirit of my people in the restless wind at night. As I walk I hear my people, they will come again. Build your world of broken glass, plant the Earth with plastic. Live in cities without a name. Make highways going backwards. Be at war with butterflies. In the end we will be waiting, in the end you will hear us coming, one footstep going on.”

War Cry was a bicentennial commission from the Colorado Springs Symphony and the Colorado Arts Council. The manager of the Colorado Springs Symphony, the late Beatrice Vradenburg, introduced me to writer/photographer Nancy Woods, an extraordinary non-Indian woman, who lived with a Taos Indian family in New Mexico. Ms. Woods was given the unique oportunity to transcribe and translate the poetry, resulting in “War Cry On A Prayer Feather.”

The beauty of the words and images do not hide the despair and bitterness of the present day Taos tribe. The words are an indictment of the treatment of earlier generations of the tribe at the hands of white Americans.

The solo voices create the widest spectrum of emotions, from outward rage and despair (Footprint, Sun Died, My People), whimsy (My Son), joy (Dance) to inner peace (Quiet Time).

The orchestra is an equal musical partner. The single footprint in Footprint is a combination of a rute played on the shell of a bass drum added to marimba and muffled timpani. The death of the sun in Sun Died is represented by the scraping and decaying sound of a gourd at the conclusion of the movement. The essence of the old women in My Son is captured by wheezing C major chords on the accordion. The entire accompaniment for Quiet Time is the single note, G natural, changing its color. In short, the full resources of the orchestra, including the addition of a mandolin, metal chains dropped on the floor (My People) and prepared piano, are used to support the solo voices.


The Elegy, a short work for string orchestra, was written shortly after the death of my brother Leo, and is dedicated to his memory.

The Elegy was incorporated into a larger work called “Elegy, Fanfare and March” which was commissioned by the Cosmopolitan Youth Orchestra. I conducted the premiere on March 14, 1965 in Carnegie Hall.

THE LITTLE BOY (or GIRL) AND THE TREE BRANCH A children's tale for Narrator and small orchestra, 1998

Narrator: Thea Mann

Text: Harold Farberman

2-1-1-1/1-1-1/timp, 3 perc/strings

Premiere: March 7,1998, Garden State Philharmonic; Kathy Graham, narrater; Raymond Wojcik, conductor

For a long time my colleagues have complained about the paucity of original works for children's concerts that include the conductor as the central figure. I searched for but could not find a suitable text until I looked at a branch of a tree and envisioned a baton. The rest, including the text, was easy.

The central characters in this fable are a wise, compassionate tree, one of its small branches, and a little boy or girl. The title of the piece changes to conform to the gender of the conductor.


AND PERCUSSION, An homage to the dance, 1957

Timp, six percussion/strings

Premiere: January 31, 1957, New Arts Orchestra, Jordan Hall, Boston, MA.

Harold Farberman, conductor

Movement One: Introduction; Allegro

Movement Two: Waltz with 2 cadenzas

Movement Three: a salute to '50s “pop”

Prologue, 3 Developments: fast, moderate,

driving, Epilogue

The intent of this work was to unite the special sound qualities of a large percussion section with strings, and to acknowledge the role of percussion in our “pop” culture. As a percussion player I was often annoyed with the non-musical and restricted use of the section. Inherently a percussion section possesses an enormous color spectrum and unique rhythmic characteristics. There is little need for special “effects” to enhance its profile. The scoring for the percussion section in this work is largely limited to traditional instruments found in a well equipped symphony orchestra of the late 1950s: timpani, drums of all sizes, bongos, perhaps timbales, xylophone, vibraphone, glockenspiel, chimes and various accessories, cymbals, gongs, tam-tam, tambourine, triangle, castanets, wood blocks, temple blocks, maracas and claves.

The lines and configurations for the strings in this work (1957) are vastly different than for Elegy (1964). Symphony Number One is tonal and relies on predictable pulse patterns: Elegy is without repeated pulse and atonal.

Each of the movements in this early work has the flavor or spirit of the dance, either within the context of the “pop” culture of the 1950s, or with a meter, 3/4, that ties it directly to an old and durable dance form. Latin-American percussion rhythms infected the “pop” culture in the 50s and are reflected in this homage to the dance.

Symphony Number One might be labeled a “cross-over” work and perhaps it is. Louie Bellson, Tito Puente, Jasha Heifitz and the Budapest Quartet shared my record shelf. However the term “cross-over” was not yet in our vocabulary in 1957.

About Lucy Shelton

Lucy Shelton is a distinguished and highly regarded interpreter of contemporary music. She has sung in major venues with leading conductors and artists in capital cities throughout the world.

About Leon Williams

American baritone Leon Williams enjoys a reputation as a multi gifted singer. He is devoted to the art song and recently performed Brahms' Vier Ernste Gesange with the Da Camera Society of Houston. He has sung with many orchestras and conductors including Leon Botstein, Dennis Russel Davies, Christoph Eschenbach, and War Cry with Harold Farberman and the American Symphony Orchestra. He has won top prizes in the Naumburg-Joy-in-Singing Competition and did the entire Broadway run of the musical Ragtime.

About Thea Mann

Ms. Mann began her career as a singer-actor-dancer on Broadway. Some of her favorite roles were Louise in Gypsy, Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, Katherine in Pippin and Irene Malloy in Hello Dolly. She also did national tours of Damn Yankees with Jerry Lewis and La Cage Aux Folles with Isabel Sanford. She moved to Los Angeles and was most recently seen in the film Bounce with Gwynneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck, and in featured roles in television episodes of Drew Carey and Friends.

She is the daughter of Corinne Curry and Harold Farberman.

About Rousse Philharmonic and Percussion Ensemble

Not far from the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, the orchestra of Rousse performs a full season in its own concert hall as well as in the turn-of-the-century Opera House. The Rousse Philharmonic tours regularly to Spain, Italy and Germany and has accompanied many famous guest artists including Rostrpovitch, Richter and Gilels.

The core orchestra percussion players, augmented by fellow percussionists, have formed a percussion ensemble featured on this disk.

About The Editor

The final editing for this CD was done in The Trees, a state-of-the-art studio in Rhinecliff, NY. The owner and excellent editor is Baird Winham.

Cover Design: William Lessner, Tivoli, NY

The Great American Cowboy Suite

from the film The Great American Cowboy

1. Breakout and Ride

Championship Belts, Ropes and Saddles

Head to Head Competition

Titles and the Oldest Living Cowboy

Killer Horse

Mud Rodeo


Prelude to Bull Wrestling

Back Home 11:38

Rousse Philharmonic • Harold Farberman, conductor

War Cry on a Prayer Feather

2. Footprint 4:22

3. Sun Died 3:54

4. My Son 3:22

5., 6. Dance - Quiet Time 2:50, 2:26

7. My People 6:47


Lucy Shelton, soprano; Leon Williams, baritone

Rousse Phiharmonic • Harold Farberman, conductor

Elegy for String Orchestra

8. 4:37

Stuttgart Phiharmonic • Harold Farberman, conductor



9. 11:38

Thea Mann, narrator

Rousse Phiharmonic • Harold Farberman, conductor


10. Movement One: Slowly, Allegro 7:15

11. Movement Two: Waltz with Cadenzas 5:54

12. Movement Three: Prologue: “Pop” Tune

Development One: Fast

Development Two: Moderato

Development Three: Driving

Epilogue 5:53


Rousse Phiharmonic • Harold Farberman, conductor

Total time: 61:19