Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra – Naomi Yoran

This evening the PSO will perform Elgar’s beautiful Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham as soloist (I am in love with him…no matter what he plays…) and the monumental work of Holst: The Planets.

I will attend the concert on Saturday & I am sure that I will
have "something to say about it". But what about last concert? It was
an extrordinary event on so many levels and only due to my tight work
schedule I could not permit myself, so far, to write down my

So here I am, trying to catch my breath & post my "abbreviated
thoughts" about the past before the immediate future "catches my tail".

Last concert featured Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra (a PSO premiere) and Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. Mahler
is one of the composers I adore and I love to listen to any of his
works.(I once drove from Boston to Pittsburgh and listened non stop to
his Third Symphony. If I would have to continue my trip for another few hours I would not change the CD…)

With Higdon’s music I just became familiar this year. As a Composer of the Year at the PSO, four of her compositions are on the season’s program. My ear started to recognize her musical language. I enjoyed her Blue Cathedral, less so the Trombone Concerto
but all together I did not feel as thought I would not like to listen
to another of her compositions. Still, prior to the concert my thinking
went something like this: "If Higdon would not satisfy even my interest, I will be consoled by Mahler…"

Sensing that a premier creates some "special energy in the air" on
the first night, I switched my ticket to the Friday concert. At least,
I thought, I will witness "history".

SURPRISE: Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra,
in five movements, was not only intriguing in structure & sound but
it hinted to several references to other composers whom I know (Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra
in particular). Two movements caught my fancy right away– the second,
with the strings as soloists and the fourth, with the percussion not
only as soloists but creating such unique music for this section of the
orchestra! Just imagine one fact: this movement was the most quiet in sound!!!

I was mesmerized! At the intermission I no longer waited for Mahler
to console my soul and "improve my concert experience"… I was eager
to listen to this Concerto once again. This was quite simple. I went
back on Saturday and had my pleasure all over again. But even more than
that: the act of listening to new, unfamiliar music twice in short
order, had an additional benefit. My memory already "stored" those
movements which I grasped the night before. They were familiar and gave
me a similar pleasure which I often get from being able to "sing with
the Orchestra" & anticipate the following musical phrases. (Is it
not childhood delights of wishing to hear again & again the same
song or story?) Naturally, my attention went to the other three, more
complex movements, which in second hearing were not complex at all.

That evening I bought Higdon’s CD which includes this Concerto. Next time I will drive by myself out of town, Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra will be my musical companion. I am looking forward to a non stop delight.

So what did I felt listening to my beloved Mahler?

My time is up… I must go back to my "normal job & make a living"… Next time, when Mahler will be back, I will pour my heart out. This time I wish to shake Higdon’s hand and thank her for this Concerto & wish her a long and creative life!

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