Photo by Michael Norris
Ross Harris (Arts Laureate 2014) is a freelance composer of art music.Since leaving his teaching position at Victoria University in 2004 Ross has been working as a freelance composer. In 2005-6 he was Composer in Residence with the Auckland Philharmonia during which time he wrote nine pieces including two symphonies. In 2008 - 2009 he was Composer in Residence at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington during which he wrote his Symphony No. III, Variation 25 for string quartet for the New Zealand String Quartet and a song cycle The Floating Bride with words by Vincent O'Sullivan. Recently Ross has had premieres of his Symphony no.4, Violin Concerto no.1 (with Anthony Marwood and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra) and his Cello Concerto (with the Auckland Philharmonia and Li-Wei Qin).
Violin Concerto No 1 performance with soloist Ilya Gringolts (violin) Garry Walker (conductor) with the Auckland Philharmonia. On this occasion the work was also recorded for release on Naxos along with the 5th Symphony.
Excerpts for review by William Dart (Weekend Herald 21 Feb 2015.
“The centerpiece of the evening, Ross Harris’ Violin Concerto, was courageous programming; an appreciated gesture to our country’s composing community, rewarded with a near full house. This is not an easy work, one is tempted to bend forward to catch Ilya Gringolts’ whispered solo fragments solo fragments, before they were caught up in engaging dialogue with the APO woodwind.
WIth the entry on the strings, there was a sense of liberation, as the Russian effortlessly set his expansive lines aloft. There is a tenacity to Harris’ musical arguments here that is typical of the composer; conductor, orchestra and soloist positively relished the very symphonic thrust of this writing. There was no lessening of tension in the faster sections, either, marked by unfailingly idiomatic writing and an a;most Stravinskian sense of propulsion. After 20 minutes, a journey had been taken and resolution achieved, as Gringolts gave us his final exquisitely whispered gestures.
Requiem for the Fallen (2014) has been described as “a devastating commentary on the ravages of war.” and “This was a never-to-be-forgotten experience for all who attended.” from the Otago Daily Times and Theatreview.org.
“It’s the best experience I’ve ever had at a premiere, and one of the best musical experiences I can remember.” A Concerto is Born - From score to stage, a new New Zealand Composition is born - David Larsen writing in Metro June 2012. The article documents the journey Larsen makes from attending the first rehearsal of Ross’ Cello Concerto to the premiere four days later.
“It is a work that captures perfectly the essence of our time - it is also a work of extraordinary and haunting beauty” NZ Listener Rod Biss Review of Violin Concerto
“It is a work that instantly enriched our heritage of New Zealand music.” The Abiding Tides (for soprano Jenny Wollerman and the New Zealand String Quartet) New Zealand Listener March 20-26 2010 Rod Biss
“The NZ String Quartet premiered the 5th String Quartet, by Ross Harris, Ritchie's student in the 1960s. Songs from Childhood is brilliantly composed; an elusive, fragmentary piece, and the musicians overcame technical and rhythmic challenges to capture its subtle, dreamlike language.” The Dominion Post 18th Feb 2013 Elizabeth Kerr
May 2010 - Violin Concerto No. 1 premiere gets a great response:
“It is a work a work that captures perfectly the essence of our time - it is also a work of extraordinary and haunting beauty” Rod Biss NZ Listener
“The world premiere of Ross Harris’ Violin Concerto No. 1 was a significant event. Commissioned by Christopher Marshall, this one-movement work is in three distinct sections, opening and closing with the violinist in gaunt, solo musing. This is Harris in Bergian mode, highlighted by a dazzling violin role, here played absolutely superbly by eminent English violinst Anthony Marwood.” John Button Dominion Post.
“English violinist Anthony Marwood was electrifying, teasing us with his opening, serpentine solo that fuels the work, fragment by fragment. There is a little post-Mahlerian world in this rich evocative score, while Stravinskian touches occasioned knowing smiles from Marwood” William Dart Auckland Herald
For the full reviews see under Reviews
SOUNZ Contemporary Awards:
Ross Harris has been a finalist in the SOUNZ Contemporary Awards eight times (in its first thirteen years thirteen years) and has won the award four times.
2000 To the memory of I.S.Totska (winner)
2003 Chaconne for solo viola (finalist)
2004 At the Edge of Silence (finalist)
2005 Labyrinth for tuba and orchestra (winner)
2006 Symphony II (winner)
2007 The Sleep of Reason (finalist)
2009 Symphony III (winner)
2010 Violin Concerto No. 1 (finalist)
Scilla Askew comments on the 2009 Award: “The SOUNZ Contemporary Award is the most prestigious annual prize for composers offered in New Zealand. The 35 entries this year represented every area of composition: from electroacoustic and multimedia to choral, chamber, orchestral, concerto and solo works.”
Composers' winner beats worthy competition
4:00AM Saturday Sep 19, 2009
By William Dart
The composers who carry off the SOUNZ Contemporary Award, given at the annual APRA Silver Scroll Awards, will never attain the populist profile of the songwriters who take the Silver Scroll Award home with them.
Nevertheless, over 12 years, Gillian Whitehead, Eve de Castro-Robinson, Ross Harris and John Psathas have all been acknowledged with more than one trophy, while last year's ceremony gave the nod to the young, and comparatively unknown, Chris Gendall.
On Thursday night, in Christchurch, a 2009 winner was chosen from three finalists.
Jack Body's My Name is Mok Bhon is a piece that reminds us visually (with video footage) and musically (the NZSO weaving elegant oriental-tinged strands) of the dark days of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge.
Michael Norris's Volti is a frisky scherzo for piano and orchestra, the sheer ebullience of which makes you long to see the pianist in the act of coping with its very theatrical solo part.
Ross Harris' Symphony III is comparatively traditional; a 40-minute orchestral canvas that almost bewilders with its richness. This is a work fuelled by the images of Chagall and the sounds of klezmer, coalesced into a remarkable symphonic whole.
Perhaps it was predictable that Harris would carry off the prize this year, his fourth since it was inaugurated in 1998 but, despite very worthy competition, it was more than deserved.
And, although Wellington has been quick to bask in the latest glories of one of its distinguished sons, Aucklanders, too, have reason for pride. If Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, an organisation which has always shown unswerving devotion for the music of our composers, had not commissioned the Symphony and premiered it last year, this score might not have been written.
In 1985 Ross was awarded a QSM for his work with Witi Ihimaera on the opera Waituhi.
In 1990 he was awarded the CANZ Citation for services to New Zealand Music.