HIGDON All Things Majestic. Oboe Concerto. Viola Concerto
The orchestra is an enormous canvas to which Jennifer Higdon applies subtle and bold colours. Her ability to use instruments in a spectrum of sonic and expressive capacities is vividly apparent in the three works on this new disc featuring the Nashville Symphony under music director Giancarlo Guerrero.
The most recent piece is the Viola Concerto (2014), three movements of deftly gauged, cheeky and often haunting material that gives the soloist numerous opportunities to soar and engage in vibrant conversation with other instruments and sections. Keeping an orchestra in balance with the viola is no mean trick but there’s never a moment when Higdon allows the large forces to conceal the protagonist. The work was written for Roberto Díaz, former principal viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra and current director of the Curtis Institute of Music, who is as mellifluous and charismatic a soloist as could be imagined.
Higdon’s Oboe Concerto (2005) is in one extended movement that emphasises the oboe’s knack for spinning long, lyrical phrases and scampering with ease. It is a piece of shimmering beauty, which James Button, the Nashville Symphony’s principal oboe, plays with elegant mastery.
The Grand Tetons are the inspiration behind All Things Majestic (2011), whose four movements paint portraits of thrilling landscapes. Higdon uses the full resources of the orchestra to convey the splendour of mountains, motion of bodies of water and wonders of other natural phenomena. Guerrero guides his ensemble through a performance in which both details and arching statements are set forth to resplendent effect.