Music: New Life for the Invalid

In San Francisco, a luminous symphony from John Harbison

Every successful composer comes to a point when his career reaches a critical mass, when the awards, commissions and appointments snowball and the transformation from obscure academic to mainstream professional is complete. That time has arrived for John Harbison. The New Jersey native's reputation has been growing steadily, but two recent events should serve to give him greater recognition. Last month Harbison, 48, won the Pulitzer Prize for Music; this month his Symphony No. 2 received its world premiere in San Francisco. Prestigious as it is, the prize only certifies what many in musical circles were already aware of. The symphony,...