April 13, 2010 |
During the head-spinning moments following the announcement of her Pulitzer Prize for music on Monday, Philadelphia composer Jennifer Higdon thought mostly about thanking people in her more distant past. "It's not so much about me, but my high school band director, Larry Hicks," said Higdon, 47, who grew up in Seymour, Tenn. "I should also call my flute teacher, Mrs. Bentley. " The Pulitzer for her Violin Concerto - which was premiered by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra last year and is scheduled for a Philadelphia performance in February - came just 10 weeks after her Percussion Concerto won the Grammy Award for best classical contemporary composition.
September 20, 2009 |
"Gutsy writing . . . inventive use of color . . . unusual instruments . . . still pretty unique. " Those musical descriptions from Philadelphia composer Jennifer Higdon suggest a critique of Berlioz, Debussy, or some other classical composer with Mount Rushmore status. But no - she was listening to the latest super-digitized incarnation of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, an early, crucial musical influence and one that explains much about the music she composes for America's great symphony orchestras.
March 4, 2008 |
Only at a new-music concert would a creaky piano bench receive ironic applause - what a clever opening chord! - since these audiences tend to be ready for anything. And in the composer summit meeting that was the Network for New Music's "Ten for Carter" concert Sunday at the Settlement Music School, the most seasoned ears enjoyed pleasantly defied expectations. The concept was to pay tribute to the great American composer Elliott Carter - who turns 100 on Dec. 11 - not only in a handful of his own pieces, but in short, newly commissioned solo piano works composed by others.
March 2, 2008 |
Though he is one of America's great composers, Elliott Carter had to live to be nearly 100 to be heard with any frequency in Philadelphia. The usual explanation - his music isn't traditionally ingratiating - is so tired as to be as much a cliche as film images of the 99-year-old composer happily making his way through the urban chaos of his native New York - the inspiration for music packed with simultaneous unrelated events. The question isn't whether listeners can parse a 130-piece oeuvre that includes Symphony for Three Orchestras and Concerto for Piano, Harpsichord and Two Chamber Orchestras, but whether they can face musical refractions of urban life.
January 11, 2008 |
"I'm living the dream. I'm in heaven," declared composer Jennifer Higdon, and it's no wonder. Christoph Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra will premiere two of her concertos this month, an unprecedented feat by any composer, anywhere. In tandem with its Bernstein festival, the orchestra will premiere her "Concerto 4-3" with onetime Curtis colleagues Time For Three as soloists this week, and "The Singing Rooms," featuring violinist Jennifer Koh and the Philadelphia Singers, next week.
January 6, 2008 |
"It's a concerto - dude!" Such was the standard reply composer Jennifer Higdon had to any complaints from the youthful string trio Time for Three while preparing their world premiere for the Philadelphia Orchestra later this week. The piece's title is in Internetspeak: Concerto 4-3. The style is multigenre - obviously, since the soloists have equal allegiances to bluegrass and Brahms. All of which sounds fun, when in truth, that kind of genre blurring in a formal symphony orchestra concert setting is a minefield.
October 23, 2006 |
With composers as prolific as Philadelphia-based Jennifer Higdon, even the best will sometimes toss off chamber works that boast of little more than a deadline met and an audience reasonably charmed. But all that I've heard from Higdon is the antithesis of disposability. Her new violin sonata, String Poetic, commissioned by the Kimmel Center and premiered on Saturday by Jennifer Koh, means to be absorbing for performers; desirable for audiences who think anything contemporary is abrasive; and useful, with most of the five movements so self-contained they can be played out of context, whether for encores or curtain raisers.
April 29, 2006 |
One of the best commendations of a new piece occurs when you're in no mood for the title or anything it implies, submit to it anyway, and, before long, hear many things you'd never want to miss. In other words, Jennifer Higdon's sixth string quartet, An Exaltation of Larks, a fine, middleweight piece, didn't saddle its listeners with inescapable images or overworked cliches about happy birds at its Philadelphia premiere by the Tokyo Quartet Thursday at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater.
January 23, 2006 |
Any alert classical-music community, great or small, harbors secret fears that its symphony orchestra programs are the same, somewhat impersonal rotation of masterpieces heard anyplace else. So you have to be impressed that Lambertville's Riverside Symphonia, a 26-year-old professional orchestra directed by Mariusz Smolij, is fostering something indigenous: Besides programming Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale, acted and narrated by area radio personalities, locally based composer Robert Maggio unveiled At the River, which encapsulates this cozy, artsy community with site-specific recordings of its residents - ducks and all. Immediate antecedents would be On the Transmigration of Souls, the John Adams orchestral work that used recorded voices as a memorial to the fatalities of 9/11, and City Scape, Jennifer Higdon's triptych of tone poems depicting her former city of residence, Atlanta.
November 25, 2005 |
Every composer dreams of having works performed and having the world's most acclaimed artists request new pieces. Local composer Jennifer Higdon has achieved that pinnacle, with commissions into the next decade and inspiration apparently coming without pause. Her moving "blue cathedral," written after the sudden death of her younger brother Andrew Blue Higdon seven years ago, has become the most frequently performed orchestral work by an American composer. In recent weeks, her music has been played by Orchestra 2001 and in the Philadelphia Orchestra's chamber music series.