Jennifer Higdon is one of the finest of America's contemporary composers, and someone who has demonstrated that contemporary classical music doesn't necessarily have to be atonal or repetitious. And here on this recording by Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, she proves it in two tremendous works that received their world premiere recordings--the "Concerto For Orchestra", and the three-movement tone painting "Cityscape"
The Concerto For Orchestra was composed by Ms. Higdon in 2002 for the Philadelphia Orchestra, which gave the work its official world premiere performance in June of that year as part of its centennial celebration. It is structured along the lines of Bartok's similarly-named 1945 masterwork, with various solo instruments or groups of instruments standing out amidst the big orchestral sound produced Although the movements are marked only by Roman numerals as opposed to evocative titles or even tempi indications, they all flow seamlessly together in the work's half-hour running time. "Cityscapes", meanwhile, was inspired by the first ten years of life that the Brooklyn-born Higdon spent in Atlanta. It is a highly evocative piece, a sort of modern equivalent of such past American composing legends as Samuel Barber, William Schuman, and Aaron Copland. The three movements of the work depict certain aspects of this great Southern city, whose orchestra and conductor gave the work in November 2002. "Skyline" is self-explanatory; "River Sings A Song To The Trees" is about the natural beauty along Peachtree Creek"; and "Peachtree Street" is about the main surface thoroughfare that runs through the city.
Both works are performed splendidly by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, which has boasted conductors like Yoel Levi, Donald Runnicles, Louis Lane, and, in its growth during the years 1967 to 1991, the late, great Robert Shaw. Robert Spano has added his own personal and welcome stamp to the orchestra, particularly in this recording, made in September 2003. For anyone interested in contemporary American music, this is a must-have recording.