A Contemporary Collaboration

Hilary Hahn

Many of the most memorable classical compositions were the result of the collaboration between the composer and the artist. One recent example is the Violin Concerto by Jennifer Higdon. Violinist Hilary Hahn was a pupil of Higdon’s at The Curtis Institute of Music. Their relationship and shared experiences are reflected in the concerto written for Hahn.

The first movement is entitled “1726” which is the address of the Curtis Institute where the composer first met Hahn. With the address in mind, Higdon used the intervals of unisons, 7ths, and 2nds, throughout the movement.

The second movement, “Chaconni”, is the calm middle movement of the work. This title comes from the word “chaconne”. A chaconne is a chord progression that repeats throughout a section of music. Higdon supplied several chaconnes for this movement allowing the soloist to play with select members of the orchestra.

The finale is entitled “Fly Forward”. Jennifer Higdon created a virtuosic ending to show off the soloist’s skills.

Jennifer Higdon won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for her concerto. Watch Hilary Hahn and Jennifer Higdon talk about their collaboration in this video recorded right after the work’s premiere.

Higdon’s Violin Concerto

Most composers are self-starters. It’s almost a genetic requirement to be entrepreneurial, if you want to be a composer. And if there were a patron saint for “indie” composers, Jennifer Higdon would be the one. It was no surprise, then, when I received a package from Lawdon Press (Higdon’s publishing shop) containing two items: a press kit (created by Deutsche Grammophon) for Hilary Hahn’s recording of Higdon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning concerto, and a letter signed by the composer, promoting her work.

Since hearing Higdon’s music years ago, I’ve been fond of her style and sound. This Violin Concerto is exciting, rich and colorful. Higdon relishes the lyrical and nimble qualities of Hahn’s playing.

I think you’ll come to like both Higdon and her music. Hahn’s performance of the concerto will air Tuesday at 1pm with Alan Brandt. Watch violinist and composer talk about the composing process below (click through for two more videos!).

2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music

Jennifer Higdon is the 2010 winner of the Pulitzer Prize in music for her Violin Concerto composed for Hilary Hahn. It was commissioned by The Indianapolis Symphony, The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and The Curtis Institute of Music. Ms. Higdon is one of the most performed living American composers and won the 2010 GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for her Percussion Concerto. She is entirely self-published under the title Lawdon Press.

Edit: Read Higdon’s reflections on winning the Pulitzer here.