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About this Piece

Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962) is one of America’s most acclaimed and most frequently performed living composers. She is a major figure in contemporary classical music, receiving the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, and Grammy Awards for the recordings of her Percussion Concerto (2010), Viola Concerto (2018), and Harp Concerto (2020). Higdon’s first opera,

I believe that one of the most rewarding aspects of life is exploring and discovering the magic and mysteries held within our universe. For a composer, this thrill often takes place in the writing of a concerto… it is the exploration of an instrument’s world, a journey of the imagination, confronting and stretching an instrument’s limits, and discovering a particular performer’s gifts. The first movement of this concerto, written for the violinist, Hilary Hahn, carries a somewhat enigmatic title of “1726.” This number represents an important aspect of such a journey of discovery, for both the composer and the soloist. 1726 happens to be the street address of The Curtis Institute of Music. As Curtis was also a primary training ground for me as a young composer, it seemed an appropriate tribute. To tie into this title, I make extensive use the intervals of unisons, sevenths, and seconds throughout this movement. The excitement of the first movement’s intensity certainly deserves the calm and pensive relaxation of the second movement. Its title, “Chaconni,” comes from the word chaconne: a chord progression that repeats throughout a section of music. In this particular case, there are several chaconnes, which create the stage for a dialog between the soloist and various members of the orchestra. The beauty of the violin’s tone and the artist’s gifts are on display here. The third movement, “Fly Forward,” seemed like such a compelling image, that I could not resist the idea of having the soloist do exactly that. Concertos throughout history have always allowed the soloist to delight the audience with feats of great virtuosity, and when a composer is confronted with a real gift in the soloist’s ability to do so, well, it would be foolhardy not to allow that dream to become a reality. —Jennifer Higdon