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Composer cites energy in orchestra concerto

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published February 21, 2013 at 12:28 a.m.

— Jennifer Higdon is composer of the year pretty much every year.

“I’ve been designated that with probably a hundred orchestras,” she says, including three major American orchestras during the 2012-13 season: with the Arkansas; the Cincinnati; and Wheeling (W.Va.) symphonies.

She’ll be in Little Rock for an almost week-long residency, attending orchestra and chamber music rehearsals and concerts, giving master classes to student groups and participating in a midday lecture-discussion.

The Arkansas Symphony will perform Higdon’s Concerto for Orchestra at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Music Hall. Music Director Philip Mann will also conduct the Symphony No. 10 by Dmitri Shostakovich.

And the orchestra’s River Rhapsodies Chamber Series concert at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Clinton Presidential Center, 1200 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock, will feature Higdon’s Autumn Music and two-movement Piano Trio along with chamber works by Samuel Barber and Shostakovich. Tickets are $22, $10 for students. Call (501) 666-1761 or visit

“The schedule is ever changing,” she says with a laugh. “My life is pretty much like this now. I have about 300 performances a year. It’s fantastic - it’s exactly what you want as a composer.” Though she admits she’s not making much money out of all these performances: “The royalties aren’t much; it’s better for the publicity.”

It’s apparently not unusual that both ASO programs have paired her works with those by Shostakovich. “I’m looking forward to that,” she says. “I love Shostakovich.”

“This Concerto for Orchestra is a pretty exciting work; it’s a great way to show off the orchestra. It’s pretty energetic, so it’s a good thing that [the Shostakovich symphony] has got energy with it, because sometimes the[concerto] is so energetic that the pieces that come after it seem a little pale. It’s happened before - they’ve had to switch the program.”

Audiences might be puzzled by the movement titles in the printed program, which at first glance seem to be, well, missing.

“They’re not blank, they’re numbers [Roman numerals]- I, II, III, IV- V,” Higdon explains.

And that dash after IV? No. the movement isn’t titled “dash” - “It’s because IV goes directly into V; it segues straight in,” Higdon says.“It’s to let people know there won’t be a break. Although there’s a distinct difference because the fourth movement is just percussion, so you can tell the fifth movement’s started when the rest of the orchestra enters.”

Higdon won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, which the committee called “a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity.”

Mann describes Higdon as “one of the brightest stars in composition in orchestralmusic today. She has won all of the big prizes and the hearts and ears of audiences worldwide. She’s that rare composer who manages to weave a beautiful melody and present it in new and creative ways that sound fresh and alive. Her music is full of color and gorgeous melody.”

Higdon describes Mann as “an excellent musician.”

“I know his rehearsing; I know everything he does,” she says. “I was a mentor when he was in residencewith the League of American Orchestras. So I’ve been watching Philip’s career for quite a few years. He’s done my stuff in other places, but this’ll be the first time we’ve both been in the same place when he’s doing something.”

The rest of Higdon’s residency schedule:

Noon-1 p.m. Friday, moderated discussion (with Mann as moderator), billed as “Lunch & Lecture” - take your own lunch; drinks provided - at Sturgis Hall, Clinton School of Public Service, 1200 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock. Admission is free; reserve seats by calling (501) 683-5239 or e-mailing publicprograms@clintonschool.

4 p.m. Friday, presentation and workshop for students at Hendrix College, University of Central Arkansas and Conway High School, Reves Recital Hall, Hendrix, 1600 Washington Ave., Conway. Admission is free and it’s open to the public. Call (501) 450-1249 or e-mail griebling@

Arkansas Symphony Orchestra

8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m.

Sunday, Robinson

Center Music Hall, West

Markham Street and

Broadway, Little Rock.

Jennifer Higdon, com

poser of the year; Philip

Mann, conductor. Higdon:

Concerto for Orchestra;

Dmitri Shostakovich:

Symphony No. 10 in e

minor, op.93

Sponsor: Crowne Plaza

Little Rock

Tickets: $14-$52; free for

children in grades K-12 to

the Sunday matinee with

paid adult (Entergy Kids


(501) 666-1761

Weekend, Pages 32 on 02/21/2013

Print Headline: Composer cites energy in orchestra concerto


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