Giancarlo Guerrero / Nashville Symphony

Jennifer Higdon: All Things Majestic; Viola Concerto; Oboe Concerto

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AllMusic Review by

Leading American composer Jennifer Higdon has achieved an impressive body of work in the concerto repertoire and in her orchestral music, where she demonstrates a strong preference for long-breathed melodies and nuanced orchestration. The Viola Concerto (2014) and the Oboe Concerto (2005) are highly accessible showpieces that offer studies in contrasts, where extended lyrical lines of reflective character are pitted against energetic sections for the ensemble that burst with invention. Roberto Díaz's intensely focused playing in the three-movement Viola Concerto gives the performance a subdued, even pensive quality. While the viola's projection is notoriously weak in its low register, Higdon's spacious scoring leaves openings for it to be heard clearly, even at its softest dynamics. The Oboe Concerto, cast in one continuous movement, is a star vehicle for James Button, who maintains astonishing breath control in the sustained lines, and displays great precision in the more active, virtuoso passages. The closing suite, All Things Majestic (2011), is a musical depiction of American landscapes, and the elegiac tone of Higdon's stirring music is reminiscent of Aaron Copland's tone painting. The evocations of the massive Grand Tetons, the serene reflections in String Lake, the tumbling rapids of the Snake River, and the awe-inspiring natural Cathedrals of the national parks, give All Things Majestic a profundity that transcends mere technical brilliance and contrapuntal mastery, and Giancarlo Guerrero and the Nashville Symphony succeed in bringing across the music's emotional richness and power. Highly recommended.

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