Various Artists

Jennifer Higdon: Summer Shimmers

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Before becoming one of the most successful orchestral composers of the early twenty first century, Jennifer Higdon studied as a flutist and found an audience through her compositions for that instrument. It's not surprising, then, to find that it is central to this 2008 album from Koch of Higdon's chamber music, and that her work from over two decades still reflects her love of the flute. Several of these pieces have appeared on recordings on other labels, such as the virtuosic rapid*fire for solo flute (1992), the lush Autumn Reflections for flute and piano (1994), and the brilliantly rhythmic tour de force, Zaka for chamber ensemble (2003), but most of the works here appear for the first time on CD. Notable among these offerings is Summer Shimmers (2004), which demonstrates Higdon's consummate skill and subtlety in blending winds and piano, and the spectacular Dash (2001), which appears in a version for flute, clarinet, and piano. These pieces, along with the fascinating Zaka, will be of the greatest interest for Higdon's admirers, while the more placid selections are somewhat less compelling. Of these, Song for solo flute (1995); Soliloquy (2004), arranged here for flute and string quartet; and Legacy for flute and piano (1999) are pleasantly lyrical and attractive, but like the accessible Autumn Reflections, less distinctive in voice and less challenging to the listener. Flutist Susan Glaser, pianist John Novacek, clarinetist Todd Palmer, and members of the Lark Chamber Artists are in fine form and play with accuracy and assured expression. Koch's sound is well-balanced through the disc, so there are no major changes in volume and the tracks have similar clarity, resonance, and presence.

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