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Jennifer Higdon: Sky Quartet; Amazing Grace; Sonata for Viola and Piano; Dark Wood; String Trio / Serafin Quartet

Audio Samples

>Higdon, Jennifer : Amazing Grace, for string quartet
>Higdon, Jennifer : Sky Quartet, for string quartet
>Higdon, Jennifer : Sonata for viola & piano
>Higdon, Jennifer : Dark Wood, for violin, bassoon, cello & piano
>Higdon, Jennifer : String Trio

Album Summary

>Higdon, Jennifer : Amazing Grace, for string quartet
>Higdon, Jennifer : Sky Quartet, for string quartet
>Higdon, Jennifer : Sonata for viola & piano
>Higdon, Jennifer : Dark Wood, for violin, bassoon, cello & piano
>Higdon, Jennifer : String Trio
Performers Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Pulitzer and GRAMMY® Award winner Jennifer Higdon is one of the most performed living American composers, and this program provides a unique opportunity to hear première recordings of her earlier chamber music. The String Trio was written while Higdon was a developing young composer, and the influences of Prokofiev and Copland can be heard in the Sonata for Viola and Piano. The beauty and immensity of the Western US sky was the inspiration for Sky Quartet, while Dark Wood explores the soulful and virtuoso character of the bassoon. Higdon's "vibrant and individual voice" (Limelight Magazine) can be heard in further chamber works on Naxos 8.559298.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Gore Recital Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, Dela (2011-08-??&2011-12-??&2012-).



Reviews

Wonderful set of early Higdon is a must for any fan
Jennifer Higdon has gradually, steadily and fortunately for us turned into one of America's absolute pre-eminent composers. Her style is clear, open, bright and often uplifting. She does not write music that is purposefully dense, complex or thorny. Her music communicates directly to the routine classical listener as well as to the trained observer. Her style speaks to the sensibilities of an American audience in particular and is reflective of her own background and life experiences. This collection of some of her early chamber music is an essential addition to any Higdon fan but will almost certainly please the first time listener as well. The set opens with her short, simple, but luminous arrangement of "Amazing Grace", originally for choir and arranged on request for the present performers, the Serafin String Quartet. The "Sky Quartet" from 1997 takes its inspiration from the spaciousness and - as the composer states - the "blueness" of the western sky. In many ways, this lovely four movement work sounds like emblematic Higdon with the shimmering and pulsing rhythms of the 'Blue Sky' to the restless impending storm of 'Fury' to the open, grandeur of the closing 'Immense Sky.' Jennifer's "Sonata for Viola and Piano" is a fairly "early" work from 1990 and is a wonderful duet, really, for viola and piano. The dreamy, tranquil quality of the opening 'Calmly' is balanced by the pulsing and, as Higdon correctly points out, the "Hindemith-like" closing 'Declamatory.' She later transcribed this work for clarinet and piano and, in some ways, it sounds different in that format. I really like the original viola iteration. Violist Molly Carr and pianist Charles Abramovic play very well indeed. This fascinating collection closes with two diverse works. Higdon's "Dark Wood" from 2001 is - essentially- a sonata or fantasy for bassoon, string trio and piano. This work begins in a dark, rumbling ominous way. The bassoon gurgles up and chatters with trills and runs through the strings and piano. This is a bit more spiky, dissonant and "unsettling" piece than the others here but I think it makes a spectacular addition to the somewhat limited set of chamber works featuring bassoon. Soloist Eric Stomberg is quite impressive on this temperamental wind. Higdon's "String Trio" is he earliest work here. Higdon states that in 1988 she was still at Curtis Institute (where she is now the composer in residence and full professor) and trying "to find her voice" Certainly there are some "academic" qualities to the line and harmony in this work that camouflage it from what we now know as Jennifer's trademark style but it is by all accounts a very solid work in a genre that does not get used all that often. I have been a big fan of Higdon's work for about twenty years but this disc makes a very nice introduction to her work and I recommend it highly!
Submitted on 08/19/13 by Dan Coombs 
Music full of promise
In this collection of early chamber works, one can hear hints of the composer Jennifer Higdon would become -- and the amazing amount of talent she already possessed.

Amazing Grace (written when Higdon was 24) breaks this overly-familiar hymn into small bits and rearranges them in a kaleidoscopic fashion. Great fun, and a great way to open the program.

Her String Trio (another student work), is a well-structured work, although a trifle unfocussed. The style of the work doesn't sound completely gelled. The trio sometimes leans towards the academic, before settling into Higdon's characteristic quasi-modal style towards the end.

Bassoonist Eric Stomberg admirably performs Dark Wood, a fast-moving work for bassoon and piano trio. This engaging work full of energy that casts the bassoon not as a clown, or as a mournful crooner, but as an agile and aggressive solo instrument.

Higdon's Sonata for Viola and Piano lets the viola sing in the first movement, and contrapuntally interact with the piano in the second, trading ideas back and forth. The Sky Quartet evokes the grandeur of the Western sky (which inspired its composition). Elegiac and expansive, the quartet is definitely a work of a composer in command of her material.
Submitted on 08/22/13 by RGraves321 
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Works Details

>Higdon, Jennifer : Amazing Grace, for string quartet
  • Ensemble: Serafin String Quartet
  • Running Time: 4 min. 46 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1998

>Higdon, Jennifer : Sky Quartet, for string quartet
  • Running Time: 21 min. 38 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1997

>Higdon, Jennifer : Sonata for viola & piano
  • Performers: Molly Carr (Viola); Charles Abramovic (Piano)
  • Running Time: 10 min. 32 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1990

>Higdon, Jennifer : Dark Wood, for violin, bassoon, cello & piano
  • Performers: Tim Schwarz (Violin); Lawrence Stomberg (Cello); Eric Stomberg (Bassoon); Charles Abramovic (Piano)
  • Running Time: 11 min. 59 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 2001

>Higdon, Jennifer : String Trio
  • Performers: Tim Schwarz (Violin); Lawrence Stomberg (Cello); Molly Carr (Viola)
  • Running Time: 18 min. 24 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Chamber Music
  • Written: 1988