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. Abraham, a six-minute composition for brass and antiphonal choirs, had its world premiere on January 17, 2004 performed by members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and a choir made up of members of the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, the London Philharmonic Choir, the Krakow Philharmonic Choir, and the Ankara Polyphonic Choir, under the baton of Sir Gilbert Levine. Harbison was previously the principal guest conductor for Emmanuel Music in Boston; after founding director Craig Smith's untimely death in 2007, Harbison was named Acting Artistic Director. When asked for his "artistic Credo" Harbison (1990) replied: "to make each piece different from the others, to find clear, fresh large designs, to reinvent traditions." He is married to violinist Rose Mary Pederson.
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