Friday, October 28, 2011

CCC 03 - Jennifer Higdon

We continue the Consonant Classical Challenge with Jennifer Higdon.

Higdon has been cited as one of the most-performed living composers. Her recent Violin Concerto has the distinction of winning both a Pulitzer Prize for music and a Grammy Award. Here's the first movement of a work that may well become a standard of the repertoire.

"Blue Cathedral" is a another good example of her style. As you can hear, it's not just melody that matters, but how it's cast. Orchestral color and timbre are an important part of Higdon's compositional voice.

Jennifer Higdon's music is solidly constructed, and should appeal to folks who like the late-romantic and post-romantic composers, such as Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss,  and Modest Mussorgsky. Not that you'll hear any of their music in a Higdon composition, but her compositions have a similar sense of fluidity and restless drama.

Her chamber works are of the same quality as her orchestral output. Below is her percussion ensemble piece, "Splendid Wood." In it, you'll hear the same strong rhythmic elements found in the violin concerto.

It's unfortunate that orchestras don't include a contemporary work as a matter of course with every program (they did in the 19th century). If music by living composers were performed regularly, there's a good chance that Higdon's works would be among the most frequently played.

Recommended recordings:

Higdon: Violin Concerto with Hillary Hahn

Jennifer Higdon: Blue Cathedral

Higdon: On a Wire (written for eighth blackbird)

Jennifer Higdon: Piano Trio; Voices; Impressions

The Consonant Classical Challenge background information.

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