Train Optional – Jennifer Higdon

That’s probably what my instrumentation page should say for the
final score of mine being played in the coming weeks.  I’m speaking of

Yes, Train Optional

Not the kind of thing one might encounter in a music hall. But
there’s the rub. This piece was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony as
part of its Centennial Celebrations of their Summer home, Ravinia.
Which also happens to be a train yard. If you can’t fight them, join
them, or so the saying goes…well the Artistic Administrator of Ravinia,
Welz Kaufman, came up with the idea of commissioning train works, which
theoretically would be accompanied by the train blowing through the
orchestra’s summertime backyard. It’s an extremely clever way to open a
concert, mocking that instrument (the train) which seems to regularly
add its fervent sound to Ravel and Chopin. Only one problem in my
piece…the train was late! So poor Lang Lang had to contend with my
train part blowing through his performance of a Chopin Concerto. Which
brings me to the title: “Loco”, as in locomotive AND “Loco”, as in
crazy! How about that crazy train?

Since we can’t get a train into Heinz Hall, you’ll have to come hear
what happens sans train! But by some amazing happenstance scheduling,
you can come and hear Lang Lang play that same concerto that was
accompanied by train at Raviania.

With these concerts, I’m finishing out my year as the Pittsburgh
Symphony’s Composer-of-the-Year. It has been a fantastic time of
getting to know many of you, those of you associated with the
orchestra, and those of you in the audience. It has been a privilege to
share my music with so many wonderful individuals and enthusiastic
listeners. Thank you for sharing with me your thoughts and feelings.

I will return in a couple of seasons to visit during the Pittsburgh
premiere of a new concerto for the blue grass trio, Time Four Three.
The Pittsburgh Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra are co-commissioning
this work and the chance to see this fantastic trio is not to be
missed. I’m already working with the group to create a new and unique
musical experience for you, the audience. So to quote a famous
actor/politician: “I’ll be back!”

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