Thursday, January 10, 2008

Five Things about Concerto 4 3

I heard the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon's Concerto 4 3 Thursday night in Philadelphia. Part of the Bernstein Festival continuing through February 2nd.

1. I was interviewing Jennifer during the first half (watch this space for updates and a posting of it!) so I only heard the first half of Tchaikovsky and Bernstein via speakers, and left after the concerto because I had worked that morning and had to go to work the next day as well. But the program was well varied and it didn't seem that anyone left the second half, which had the world premiere with Time For Three and Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini. Bassist Ranaan Meyer introduced the work briefly, giving the background of how the work came into being.

[The picture above left is at intermission, when we came into the hall - Jennifer was recognized by patrons, students and audience members, but we snapped this quick picture.]

2. The first movement of Concerto 4 3 is short, sweet and busy. It features the Trio prominently, with lots of extended blugrass techniques. Zachary DePue was stellar with his bow scraping in the right hand and bold leaps with his left. I was a little surprised that they didn't have stands or music, the trio played it from memory with flair, panache and let you know they were having fun. Maestro Eschenbach also seemed to be watching them alot and smiling.

3. The central slow movement is the longer of the concerto and certainly lets the orchestra blend with the trio, especially haunting and beautiful is a section with the oboes who melt your heart. Lines come and go, from the trio to the orchestra and back. The whole movement was seemless with the first and featured the trio in a cadenza that blew your mind. Meyer's bass was stunning in melodies, although often his movement seemed over the top.

4. The finale is wonderous and toe tapping. Again, Higdon's brilliant orchestration shines and allowed Time for Three to jam, where percussion leads to brass to the winds and strings, all while the soloists play the perfect mix of classical and bluegrass. Nick Kendall fiddled and swayed with timing just right with his comrades, often melding in unison lines.

5. The audience was on its feet, and shouts of "Bravo" echoed in the hall - you probably heard me whistle and hoot. While I thought perhaps "The Singing Rooms" will make the history books for its unique orchestration of Violin, Chorus and Orchetsra, I think Concerto 4 3 will long be remembered for its groundbreaking freedom of styles. I've never experienced such quality of music in varied styles, and with such tasteful, miraculous execution. Simply a masterpiece.

Stay tuned for a review of "The Singing Rooms" this next week and an interview to be posted at Composing Thoughts!

Read my previous posting about more of Jennifer's concerts here. Learn about her upcoming Composing Thoughts Live here.

1 comment:

Jamie said...

Post and blog found via Atrios. Cool! I love Higdon's CD on the Naxos label. She arguably deserves to be huge.