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Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra,
will be premiered at concerts by The Philadelphia Orchestra June 12-15, with the world premiere performance given for the assembled delegates to the American Symphony Orchestra League’s annual National Conference, being held in Philadelphia in 2002. Each of the three commissioned pieces explores a different aspect of the Orchestra’s musical relationship with its hometown.
The first (Michael Daugherty’s Philadelphia Stories) celebrates the city of Philadelphia, the second (Aaron Jay Kernis’s Color Wheel) commemorates the opening of the Orchestra’s new home concert hall, and the last (Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra) will showcase the individual and collective musical artistry of The Philadelphia Orchestra itself.
All three composers have direct connections in their lives to the city and/or Orchestra.
A longtime resident of Philadelphia, Higdon is writing this new work as a paean to the individual and collective artistry of the musicians of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Like earlier works of the same title by other composers, this new Concerto for Orchestra features prominent solos for many of the Orchestra’s principal players (many of whom Higdon knows personally) and for the special sonorities of the Orchestra’s sections (strings, winds, brass, percussion, and/or sub-sections).
Comments Higdon: “I’ve worked with a lot of the Orchestra’s musicians in new-music concerts. I went to school with some at Curtis, or they are former students of mine. I’m tailoring the Concerto to the individual players and to the Orchestra as a whole.”
Higdon (born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 31, 1962) has been called a renaissance woman of music, not only recognized as a composer but also as a performer (flute) and conductor. She has served as composer-in-residence for a number of schools, festivals, and institutions throughout the United States. She currently is a faculty member of the Curtis Institute of Music. Her Blue Cathedral, a newly-written orchestral piece, was included in a concert last year celebrating Curtis’s 75th anniversary, which was featured on a special television broadcast series by Philadelphia’s WHYY-TV. Further biographical/professional information is available at www.jenniferhigdon.com.
Hidgon attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia as a student and now serves as a faculty member teaching composition there.
The Higdon premiere is the final premiere of a series of eight Centennial Commissions created for The Philadelphia Orchestra surrounding of the ensemble’s 100th Annniversary in the year 2000. The works are being premiered over the course of three seasons, from 1999 to 2002.
Five received their world premiere performances prior to this season, four by the Orchestra and one in London as a co-commission with the BBC. Those works include One Heart Beating by Hannibal, Symphony No. 8 ("The Journey") by Einojuhani Rautavaara, Violin Concerto ("A Fool's Paradise") by Richard Danielpour, and Concerto for Orchestra by Roberto Sierra. The fifth, Quickening by James MacMillan, was premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra during the 1999 London Proms season and was given its first performances (and United States debut) by The Philadelphia Orchestra at concerts in April 2002.
the Listening is Easy
is here and the listening is easy. After a hard season of heavy sledding
Violin and String Quartet
Composer: Morton Feldman
Performer: Christina Fong, Karen Krummel, et al.
Ensemble: Rangzen Quartet
Listening to this epic 2-CD chamber work is like watching a large block of ice melt for nearly two hours--excruciating sameness, tantilizing variation, in equal measures. A labor of love by all involved and the kind of thing that only small, independent labels will do. Bravo
Anake & Other Works
Composer: Lyell Cresswell
Performer: Daniel Bell, William Conway, et al.
Nmc Records - #77
Compositions for solo instruments (other than the piano) rarely get recorded which is a shame because sometimes--as in this case--the results are spectacular. New Zealand-born British composer Cresswell's warm and passionate solo turns for the violin, cello, flute, and piano are given convincing readings by members of The Hebrides Ensemble.
Symphony 4 / Overture / Nympholept
Composer: Arnold Bax
Peformers Lloyd-Jones, Royal Scottish Nat'l Orch
Naxos - #8555343
Not in Vaughn Williams or Arnold's class as a symphonist, Bax nonetheless has a highly invidual voice and offers tremendous pleasures for those who look for less traveled paths.
Silk Road Journeys
Composer: Michio Mamiya, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, et al.
Performer: Yo-Yo Ma
Ensemble: Silk Road Ensemble
Sony - #89782
Composer: Ferruccio Busoni
Performers: Wong, Hong Kong Phil Orch
Naxos - #8555373
Little-known suite that Busoni extracted from his incidental music to Gozzi's play, Turandot. Completed in 1905, and in eight descriptive sections, it is engaging late Romantic with hints of Straussian darkness. The Saraband and Cortege are from Busoni's better-known Doktor Faust.
Compositions for Piano (1920-1952)
Composer: Stefan Wolpe: Performer: David Holzman, piano BRIDGE 9116
From the nice people at Bridge Records comes an invaluable look at an early and largely forgotten modernist just in time for the Wolpe Centenary (1902-2002)
Holzman wins the uphill battle with such Wolpe knuckle-busters as the Sonata
No. 1 "Stehende Musik" (1925), the aptly named
The Rheingold Curse: A Germanic Saga of Greed and Revenge from the Medieval Icelandic Edda
Marc Aurel Edition - #20016
Wagner's mother lode. Apocalyptic texts, atmospheric performances, bring to shattering life the age of the Vikings and the Valkyries when Gods and mortals jousted for the medieval soul. Thoughtful music for an age in which evil men once more live in caves and wreak havoc upon their fellow men.
Stephen Hough's English Piano Album
Composer: Alan Rawsthorne, Stephen Reynolds, et al.
Performer: Stephen Hough
Hyperion - #67267
Stephen Hough is among the most talented pianists today and also one of the most adventuresome. Rather than concentrating on the surefire crowd pleasers, he has followed his own tastes which have taken him down a less traditional path. His focus on neglected works by less-known composers is never less than rewarding and particularly so in this CD which showcases virtuoso piano pieces from English composers like Alan Rawsthorne and Stephen Reynolds as well as Elgar and Bridge. A delight from start to finish.
Composer: David Stock
Performer(s): Cuarteto Latinoamericano
Stock blends influences from Ives to minimalism, from Bartok to jazz, and from synagogue music to Schoenberg into a fresh and imaginative style of dramatic sweep and lyrical flight. His close collaboration with Cuarteto Latinoamericano, one of the world’s outstanding chamber ensembles, has produced a recording of great emotional power and driving rhythm, with blazing colors and a wide dynamic and expressive range.
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Composer: Bohuslav Martinu
Conductor: Zdenek Kosler
Performer: Ludek Vele, Stefan Margita, et al.
Naxos - #8555138
Gilgamesh was an historical king of Uruk in Babylonia, on the River Euphrates in what is now modern Iraq; he lived about 2700 B.C. Many stories and myths were written about Gilgamesh, some of which were written down about 2000 B.C. in the Sumerian language on clay tablets in the script known as cuneiform and which still survive, providing continuing inspiration for writers and poet and musicians. One of the most inspired of these was Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu, who wrote this magnificent choral masterpiece based on the legend in 1955--only a couple of years before his death. Like virtually everything Martinu wrote, this one is indispensible.
Concertos for Two Pianos
Composer: Bohuslav Martinu, Alfred Schnittke
Conductor: Eiji Oue
Performer: Kathrin Rabus
Cpo Records - #999804
An inspired pairing of works for two pianos by two of modern music's real giants. Martinu's concerto is big, sprawling and filled with musical color; Schnittke's is restrained with tensions that build into moments of momentous relief. Taken together, a testimony to the power of the imaginative to produce different, yet equally compelling, solutions to the same problems.
Symphony No. 9
Composer: Hans Henze
Berlin Radio Choir
No record can quite capture the excitement of a live performance, but having been there the night the Henze 9th was recorded, I can testify that this CD comes very close to capturing the epic, shattering, passionate, heartbreaking pain of this incredible work. The Philharmonic plays magnificently, and the Berlin Radio Choir sings with total commitment this setting of seven harrowing poems by Hans-Ulrich Treichel, based on Anna Seghers's wartime novel "The Seventh Cross," about the re-capture and martyrdom by crucifixion of seven concentration camp escapees. No one who listens to this work will ever forget it.