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Curtis Symphony Orchestra plays Higdon’s Pulitzer-winner at Carnegie, Feb 15

Jennifer Higdon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Violin Concerto continues to impress one listener after another and, on February 15 at Carnegie Hall, the Curtis Institute of Music presents the work in its New York premiere.  The concerto’s dedicatee—Curtis alumna and two-time Grammy Award-winner Hilary Hahn (’99)—will perform the piece, which was co-commissioned from Higdon—a faculty member and alumna (’88)—by Curtis in collaboration with several major American orchestras.  The concert by the Curtis Symphony Orchestra also includes works by Shostakovich and Hindemith.  Juanjo Mena, chief conductor designate of the BBC Philharmonic, will lead the performance in his Carnegie debut.
The Carnegie Hall event is the first of three Curtis concerts in New York this season.  Curtis On Tour stops at Le Poisson Rouge on April 5 for the New York premiere of Book of Days, a commissioned piece by Daron Hagen (’84), while Curtis 20/21 presents an evening devoted to Joan Tower at the Miller Theatre on May 5 as part of the Miller’s popular “Composer Portraits” series.  More information about these concerts follows below.
One of many recent works in which Curtis has played a commissioning role, Higdon’s Violin Concerto is cast in three movements, of which the first—“1726”—is an allusion to the school’s street address.  On the pairing of Higdon’s Violin Concerto with Hahn as its soloist, the San Francisco Chronicle enthused: “Hilary Hahn gives a characteristically brilliant performance, mixing clarity, sensitivity, and energy. …[Higdon’s] concerto itself is a knockout—a canny, evocative, and exciting score that marks a major addition to the repertoire.”  The London Times pronounced the concerto a “complex, assured, and relentlessly virtuosic work” that “enchants the ear.”  The Boston Globe praised both composer and interpreter, noting that “the Higdon Concerto is very finely crafted indeed… .  Hahn is excellent, the part ideal for her meticulous tone: fine-grained and silvery…, emphasizing Higdon’s cosmopolitan eloquence.”
Holder of the Curtis Institute’s Rock Chair in Composition, Jennifer Higdon (b.1962) is one of a long line of Curtis graduates to become a major voice in contemporary composition; her fellow alumni include Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, and Ned Rorem.  One of today’s most frequently-performed living American composers, Higdon was also awarded the 2010 Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for her Percussion Concerto.  As the New York Times observed, “Higdon’s vivid, attractive works have made her a hot commodity.”
When violinist Hilary Hahn first enrolled in Higdon’s 20th-century music class at Curtis ten years ago, neither could have predicted what a fruitful relationship theirs would be.  Yet Higdon explains that she wrote the Violin Concerto with her former student in mind, to “show off her gifts.”  It was Hahn who gave the work its world premiere performance last year, before recording it for Deutsche Grammophon with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; the release quickly climbed to the top of the Billboard and charts.
Higdon’s concerto will appear between two staples of the 20th-century orchestral literature: Hindemith’s Konzertmusik for strings and brass (1926) and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 (1937).  The program will be directed by Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena, who takes up his new appointment as chief conductor of England’s BBC Philharmonic this fall.  He is currently principal guest conductor of Norway’s Bergen Philharmonic, as well as chief guest conductor at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, Italy.  Since making his North American debut with the Baltimore Symphony in 2004, he has appeared annually with that orchestra; his other recent and upcoming American debuts include the Philadelphia Orchestra, plus the symphonic ensembles of Atlanta, Cincinnati, Colorado, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Oregon.
The Curtis Symphony Orchestra has been called by the Philadelphia Inquirer “an orchestra that any city would be lucky to have as its professional ensemble.”  The orchestra presents three concerts annually in Verizon Hall at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, as well as frequent concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall.  Visiting conductors—such as Charles Dutoit, Simon Rattle, and Michael Tilson Thomas—lead the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in major repertoire.  This professional orchestral training, under the direction of Otto-Werner Mueller and David Hayes, has enabled Curtis alumni to assume prominent positions in the world’s major orchestras.
On April 5, Curtis On Tour stops at the Greenwich Village club (Le) Poisson Rouge, a popular alternative classical venue.  Each season, Curtis On Tour brings the artistry of the Curtis Institute of Music to audiences nationwide, with tomorrow’s leading musicians performing alongside celebrated alumni and faculty.  For the 2011 tour, Curtis piano faculty member Ignat Solzhenitsyn (piano and conducting, ’95) will be joined by Curtis students Kelly Coyle (clarinet) and Ayane Kozasa (viola) for the New York premiere of Book of Days, a commissioned piece by Daron Hagen (’84).  The program also features Mozart’s “Kegelstatt” Trio, the Op. 120 Sonatas of Brahms, and György Kurtág’s Hommage à R. Sch.  Further information is available at
Curtis 20/21, the school’s contemporary music ensemble, performs a concert devoted to the works of American composer Joan Tower (b.1938) on May 5 at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, as part of the Miller’s “Composer Portraits” series.  Further information is available at  Flexible in size and scope, Curtis 20/21 performs a vast range of music; recent offerings include centenary programs for Samuel Barber, Olivier Messiaen, and Elliott Carter, as well as a collaborative performance with eighth blackbird, and a concert in tribute to resident Curtis composer John Corigliano.
The Curtis Institute of Music has been described by the New York Times as “arguably the country’s most elite conservatory.”  Since the school’s founding in 1924, its distinctive “learn by doing” approach has produced alumni of the highest stature, from such legends as Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein to current stars Juan Diego Flórez, Alan Gilbert, Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Higdon, and Lang Lang.  Grounded in this rich heritage, Curtis remains forward-thinking, evolving strategically to nurture the 21st-century skills that allow students to invent their careers in today’s changing musical world.  Further information is available at
Tuesday, February 15 at 8pm
Carnegie Hall, New York City
Curtis Institute of Music presents:
Curtis Symphony Orchestra
Juanjo Mena, conductor
Hilary Hahn, violin
Hindemith: Konzertmusik for strings and brass
Jennifer Higdon: Violin Concerto (NY premiere)
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5
Tickets: $16, $30, $50.  Available through the Carnegie Hall Box Office at (212) 247-7800 or  Curtis at Carnegie Gala: Preconcert dinner and premium concert tickets.  Proceeds benefit the Curtis Student Assistance Fund.  Gala tickets: information available from the Curtis Development Office at (215) 893-5279 or [email protected].
Tuesday, April 5 at 7:30pm
(Le) Poisson Rouge, New York City
Curtis On Tour with Ignat Solzhenitsyn, piano
Kurtág: Hommage à R. Sch., Op. 15d
Brahms: Sonata in F minor for viola and piano, Op. 120, No. 1
Daron Hagen: Book of Days (New York premiere)
Mozart: Trio in E-flat major, K. 498 (“Kegelstatt”)
Tickets: $15. Available from (Le) Poisson Rouge box office (open daily from 5pm until closing), or at  This is a first-come, first-served seated event.  Seating is limited and not guaranteed, so early arrival is recommended.  Doors open at 6:30pm.
Thursday, May 5 at 8pm
Miller Theatre, Columbia University, New York City
Curtis 20/21
   String Force
   Ivory and Ebony
   Angels (String Quartet No. 4)
   Trio Cavany
   Simply Purple
   Wild Purple
Tickets: $25.  Available through the Miller Theatre at (212) 854-7799 or

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