Higdon: Concerto for Orchestra

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Higdon: Concerto for Orchestra 34:34 $11.98
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1 Concerto for Orchestra: I. First movement 7:59 44.1/16 Album only
2 Concerto for Orchestra: II. Second movement 4:29 44.1/16 Album only
3 Concerto for Orchestra: III. Third movement 9:30 44.1/16 Album only
4 Concerto for Orchestra: IV. Fourth movement 5:42 44.1/16 Album only
5 Concerto for Orchestra: V. Fifth movement 6:54 44.1/16 Album only

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Recorded live, June 12, 2002, Verizon Hall, The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Concerto for Orchestra Composed in 2001 Jennifer Higdon Born in Brooklyn, New York, December 31, 1962 Now Living in Philadelphia

When Jennifer Higdon, a Philadelphia-based composer who teaches at the Curtis Institute of Music, was commissioned to write a work for The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Centennial celebrations, the inspiration for her piece came directly from the Orchestra members themselves. Higdon has enjoyed a long and fruitful professional relationship with many of The Philadelphia Orchestra members, lasting in some cases up to 15 years. Some of them have been her colleagues on the faculty at the Curtis Institute, some in her classes at Curtis, others have known her through their performances of Higdon’s works, or in performances with her (she is also an accomplished flutist). The commission wasn’t so much an assignment as an opportunity to celebrate these years of collaborations and friendships in music. Early Inspirations Higdon’s compositional style draws on an eclectic blend of early musical experiences and sources. She taught herself flute at a young age, and didn’t receive formal instruction on flute until she enrolled as a music major in college. Her early listening experiences included Bob Dylan and the Beatles (she claims to have listened to the Sergeant Pepper album every day for two years) and, through her father, reggae. Exploring the canonical works of the classical music repertory didn’t begin until she was an undergraduate. Higdon also played flute in a competition marching band, and the hours of practice playing and moving with military precision have resulted in a need for clearly articulated rhythms in her compositions. The generic title of Concerto for Orchestra has been a popular one with composers of the last 50 years. Bartók’s Concerto is widely regarded as a masterpiece, and often cited as the most recent orchestral work to enter the standard repertory. But a myriad of other composers have also written Concertos for Orchestra, including Witold Lutos awski, Zoltán Kodály, Michael Tippett, Elliot Carter, Roger Sessions, and Joan Tower. Most of these works are understandably written in the shadow of Bartók, just as any symphonist works in the shadow of Beethoven, but Higdon makes no allusion to Bartók at all. Rather, her work is a concerto in the baroque sense of the word, in that many soloists from within the orchestra are given an opportunity to shine. In addition to soloists from each of the instrumental families, the work also features different sections of the orchestra, so that the title is more literally applicable than in many works so named. Higdon decided that the work should highlight not only the principal players in the orchestra, but also their own particular musical personalities. This idea seemed so obvious to her in retrospect, but it came only after several years of contemplating the commission. Most of Higdon’s works carry descriptive titles or movement subtitles, and these have often functioned as inspirations for her, but the motivation in this work came from the players themselves. As a flutist, Higdon’s first point of contact was naturally The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Principal Flute, Jeffrey Khaner, who asked her for “a really nice flute solo.” The idea expanded to include a passage that highlighted the flute section as a whole, then all the woodwinds. (This would eventually become the Concerto’s third movement). Other requests from orchestra personnel helped Higdon channel her inspiration into fashioning the work as a showcase for the entire orchestra. A Closer Look Because the inspiration and form of the work are so readily apparent in performance, Higdon refrained from giving either the work or the movements descriptive titles. They are referred to only by their Roman-numeral indicators. The first movement highlights the entire orchestra. Higdon’s interactions with the players from The Philadelphia Orchestra are so extensive that she is able to tailor the movement to suit the musical personalities of the players. The rhythmically active movement builds gradually to a climax but ends softly with held tones in the winds and brass. This conclusion provides a necessary moment of contrast, as the second movement, which is also energetic, had already been written before the first movement (which was actually the last one to be composed). The second movement is scored for strings alone. Like so many others, Higdon had long known of the reputation of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s string section, and she wrote exploring that sound and its possibilities. Gradually moving from pizzicato to bowed strings, the movement investigates contrasts in timbre, tempo, and rhythmic activity. The third movement was the first to be composed, emerging directly from Jeffrey Khaner’s request for a flute solo. After the flutes, the oboe, clarinet, and bassoon sections each have their turn in the limelight before moving to string solos followed by brass solos. Percussion and keyboard dominate the fourth movement, which begins with bowed pitched percussion (crotales and vibraphone) in an extremely slow tempo marking. For this movement the timpanist is required to leave the timpani and join the rest of the percussion section: another personal request from the Orchestra that Higdon willingly worked into the piece. The movement steadily accelerates as it proceeds, and the emphasis shifts to non-pitched percussion. The acceleration continues in the fifth movement, which follows without a break but is indicated clearly by the entrance of the orchestral strings. The quickening tempo speeds headlong through the final movement toward a frenzied fortissimo conclusion. —Luke Howard Program note commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra Association; © 2002 Luke Howard About the Composer Jennifer Higdon was born on New Year’s Eve, 1962, in Brooklyn, New York. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and East Tennessee. A late-bloomer, she taught herself flute in high school and didn’t begin active study of music until arriving at college. While working on a performance degree, she became interested in composing. After completing that degree, she began composing full-time and has been working exclusively on commission for the past ten years. Ms. Higdon has been commissioned by a variety of ensembles and performers, including the Minnesota Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the Curtis Institute of Music Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Verdehr Trio, St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, ASCAP (the Oregon Symphony), Network for New Music, and by such artists as Carol Wincenc, the Lark Quartet, and Gary Graffman. Upcoming commissions are scheduled for the Atlanta Symphony, the National Symphony, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, eighth blackbird, the Elements String Quartet, the Cypress String Quartet, Astral Artistic Services, the Philadelphia Singers, and the Vail Music Festival. Ms. Higdon’s works have been performed extensively around the world, including performances at the White House, Weill Hall, Merkin Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Stuttgart Festival, and by such performers as Jeffrey Khaner, Marc André Hamelin, the Cassatt String Quartet, the Miami String Quartet, the Lark Quartet, the Pacifica String Quartet, Synchronia, Earplay, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Louisville Orchestra, the Oregon Symphony, the New England Philharmonic, and the Knoxville Symphony. Among her many awards, Ms. Higdon has received recognition from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts & Letters (two awards), the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, and ASCAP. In addition she has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet-the-Composer, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (2002 Fellowship). She has served as composer-in-residence with the Music from Angel Fire Festival, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Walden School, the National Youth Orchestra Festival, the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, and the Prism Saxophone Quartet. She is currently Composer-in-Residence with the Philadelphia Singers. Her work Shine was named Best Contemporary Piece of 1996 by USA Today in its year-end classical picks. Ms. Higdon’s works have been recorded on 20 CDs. Recent releases include wissahickon poeTrees on Albany, Autumn Reflection (recorded by Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Flute Jeffrey Khaner) on Avante, and Deep in the Night on New World. In February 2003, the Atlanta Symphony will release her orchestral work blue cathedral on Telarc. As a flutist, she has recorded on the Access and I Virtuosi labels and as a conductor on CRI. Ms. Higdon is currently on the composition faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She is published exclusively by Lawdon Press. ABOUT THE ARTIST The 2001-02 season marks Wolfgang Sawallisch’s ninth year as music director of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Acclaimed as one of the greatest living exponents of the Germanic musical tradition, he has enriched and expanded upon the Orchestra’s century-old tradition of excellence. Mr. Sawallisch has re-affirmed The Philadelphia Orchestra’s commitment to new music through a series of ongoing commissions. His vision for the Orchestra’s 100th Anniversary Season in 1999-2000, made up exclusively from music written since the ensemble’s creation in 1900, resulted in record ticket sales and critical praise. His concert tours with the Orchestra have included performances on four continents, from Beijing to Birmingham, from Buenos Aires to Boston. The current season under Wolfgang Sawallisch’s baton includes much-anticipated performances of the complete cycle of Beethoven’s piano concertos with soloist Murray Perahia. In November/December he conducts concert performances of Bartók’s opera Bluebeard’s Castle, a fitting tribute to the Academy of Music and its history with the Orchestra in presenting operatic performances. He also leads three world premieres: Aaron Jay Kernis’s Color Wheel, an Orchestra commission for the opening of the Kimmel Center; Penderecki’s Piano Concerto, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Emanuel Ax and The Philadelphia Orchestra; and Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra, an Orchestra Centennial Commission. Throughout his tenure, Mr. Sawallisch has been an outspoken advocate for the construction of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s new home at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. He has actively participated in planning for the new concert hall’s acoustics and its operations, and conducted the Orchestra’s first performances in Kimmel’s Verizon Hall, at the Gala Preview Concert on December 14 and in the Orchestra’s Gala Inaugural Concert on December 15. Mr. Sawallisch has encouraged the exploration of new ways to present music to American audiences. In April 1997, he led the Philadelphians in the first live Internet concert “cybercast” made by a major American orchestra, attracting listeners from more than 40 countries around the world. He has presented season-long focuses on the works of Haydn, Beethoven, and Brahms, and an ongoing overview of the works of Richard Strauss (including a concert presentation of the opera Ariadne auf Naxos). In February 1994, for a concert he was to conduct, he stepped in alone to replace the entire Orchestra (snowed-in at various points throughout the city) for an extraordinary evening of Wagnerian opera highlights, accompanying the scheduled soloists and chorus on piano. Since becoming music director in 1993, Mr. Sawallisch has led The Phila¬delphia Orchestra each year in concerts outside Philadelphia, helping to build upon the en¬semble’s long tradition of touring. They appear together annually in a series of concerts at Carnegie Hall and have performed in major concert halls throughout the world on eight international tours (three to Europe, four to Asia, and one to Central and South America). Their United States tour in the fall of 2001 includes 12 concerts in nine states. Wolfgang Sawallisch was born in Munich and graduated from that city’s Academy of Music. He began his conducting career in 1947 at the Opera Theater of Augsburg, where he served as vocal coach, chorus master, and conductor of ballet, opera, and concert music. In 1953 he became the youngest conductor to lead the Berlin Philharmonic, an orchestra with which he is associated to this day. He next held successive music directorships in Aachen, Wiesbaden, and Cologne and appeared annually at the prestigious Bayreuth Festival. He was music director of the Vienna Symphony from 1960-70, and also served as music director of the Hamburg Philharmonic from 1963-71. He served as artistic director of Geneva’s Orchestre de la Suisse Romande from 1973-80. In 1971 he was appointed music director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, beginning an exceptionally fruitful and long lasting relationship with that company. Working in Munich for more than two decades, he served concurrently as the Opera’s general manager during his last ten years there before coming to Philadelphia. As a guest conductor, Mr. Sawallisch leads concerts each year with the Vienna Symphony and Tokyo’s NHK Orchestra. Other recent guest appearances include per¬formances with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, l’Orchestre de Paris, the Israel Philharmonic, London’s Philharmonia, and the Czech Philharmonic. Mr. Sawallisch’s extensive discography includes a wide range of orchestral and opera recordings, both with The Philadelphia Orchestra and with a number of European ensembles. His recordings of Robert Schumann’s symphonies with the Dresden Staatskapelle on the EMI label are often considered a benchmark against which other conductors’ renditions are compared. His Philadelphia compact discs include works by Bruckner, Dvořák, Hindemith, and Tchaikovsky, as well as a special disc of orchestral transcriptions by Leopold Stokowski and a four-disc cycle of the orchestral works of Richard Strauss. Mr. Sawallisch is highly regarded as a chamber musician and accompanist. He has collaborated and recorded with such vocalists as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hermann Prey, Peter Schreier, and Margaret Price, as well as with the Munich Residenz Quartet. His most recent recordings as a pianist include Schubert’s Winterreise and Schumann songs with Thomas Hampson, and a disc of 20th-century works with trumpeter Ole Edvard Antonsen. He often performs with members of The Philadelphia Orchestra, appearing frequently on the Orchestra’s annual Chamber Music Series. Mr. Sawallisch’s artistry has been recognized throughout his career with many awards and citations. He was given the Toscanini Gold Baton in recognition of his 35-year associa¬tion with La Scala in Milan. His honorary degrees include a doctorate from the Curtis Insti¬tute of Music in Philadelphia. 6/2002 PRODUCTION CREDITS Balance Engineer: George Blood Recording Engineer: George Blood Editor: Charles Gagnon Assistant Editor: Jason O’Connell Archival Transfer: Jason O’Connell Cover and Bio Photo: Chris Lee