Friday, September 13, 2013
Higdon: Early chamber works hold their own
Charles Abramovic, piano
Eric Stomberg, bassoon
In this collection of early chamber works, one can hear hints of the composer Jennifer Higdon would become -- and the amazing amount of talent she already possessed.
Amazing Grace (written when Higdon was 24) breaks this overly-familiar hymn into small bits and rearranges them in a kaleidoscopic fashion. Great fun, and a great way to open the program.
Her String Trio (another student work), is a well-structured work, although a trifle unfocused. The style of the work doesn't sound completely gelled. The trio sometimes leans towards the academic, before settling into Higdon's characteristic quasi-modal style towards the end.
Bassoonist Eric Stomberg admirably performs Dark Wood, a fast-moving work for bassoon and piano trio. This engaging work full of energy that casts the bassoon not as a clown, or as a mournful crooner, but as an agile and aggressive solo instrument.
Higdon's Sonata for Viola and Piano lets the viola sing in the first movement, and contrapuntally interact with the piano in the second, trading ideas back and forth. The Sky Quartet evokes the grandeur of the Western sky (which inspired its composition). Elegiac and expansive, the quartet is definitely a work of a composer in command of her material.