Pulitzer-winning Work Disappoints

Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto, written for Hilary Hahn and commissioned jointly by the Curtis Institute and the orchestras of Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Toronto, won its composer a Pulitzer Prize last year. Hahn has recorded it with Vasily Petrenko and the Liverpool Philharmonic. Not surprisingly the performance by the Curtis Symphony (both Hahn and Higdon are Curtis alumnae) on Feb. 15 at Carnegie Hall was impeccably prepared.

Harmonics in the solo violin against pitched percussion open the work attractively. As it moves along, we hear a whiff of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto ushering in more lyrical material, quite reminiscent of the Violin Concerto by Samuel Barber. Later on, the spell of that piece returns, as do reminders of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s tonal palate.

Ultimately, this earnest, well-crafted music never acquires an individual voice and seems mired in a pervasive vapidity.


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