Higdon and Stravinsky Add Modern Twist to Illinois Symphony Orchestra Concert
The Illinois Symphony Orchestra brings audience music from a living composer to Bloomington on Saturday. Charlie Schlenker spoke with Music Director Ken Lam about Jennifer Higdon’s “To The Point” work.
Higdon is a Grammy and Pulitzer award-winning composer. Lam said his works are very accessible and American in spirit.
“She’s one of America’s most performed songwriters these days. And her music is very engaging to listen to. Yes, it’s not without difficulty. It’s complex. But, as with the music of Aaron Copland , you listen and it sounds American music. And Higdon’s music sounds like that too, “Lam said.
He said he has great energy. One word he has heard to describe it is pointillist.
“If you look at some minimalist composers, there is a repetitiveness of small units in this piece. Of course, you can go to the works of John Adams. But there is also a lot of energy and the harmony is reminiscent of some aspects of Aaron as well. Copland because of its openness, ”Lam said.
Lam said you can hear elements of composer Roy Harris or even a little bit of Charles Ives in the harmonies of Higdon.
Also on the concert program, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. Lam said the Sinfonia Concertante was one of Mozart’s favorite works. At that time, composers would write the piece and then sketch out a cadenza, a place where soloists could improvise or riff on themes from the rest of the work. In this case, Lam stated that Mozart wrote every note of the cadenza.
“As if to say ‘Don’t mess with my room!’ This is how I want it to be, ”Lam said.
The viola is also tuned higher than standard in this piece. Lam said it uplifts the sound and makes it brighter. He said that the viola was Mozart’s favorite instrument.
Dumbarton Oaks by Igor Stravinsky is also on the program. It is a tribute to Bach’s third Brandenburg Concerto.
Lam said that Stravinsky used the same instrumentation as Bach, but then moved away from it.
“Like a cubist painting. He kind of cuts it out and the nose is put at a different angle and the eye, and so on,” Lam said.
The concert will take place on Saturday evening at the Second Presbyterian Church in Bloomington.
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