On today’s date in 2009, Hilary Hahn premiered a new violin concerto by the American composer Jennifer Higdon, a work tailor-made for the violinist, according to Higdon:
“She’s got gorgeous tone in the top register, but also down really low, so I tried to utilize her entire range, her lyrical gift, her ability to play super fast and negotiate through complex meter changes… I sent off each movement as I finished it, and I kept thinking she was going to say, 'Oh, this is too hard,' but she said, 'It's my job, I'm going to learn it,' and boy she did.“
When asked if it wasn’t intimidating writing a violin concerto in the 21st century, considering the incredible legacy of great violin concertos already written, Higdon said a little intimidation is a good thing: “There's nothing like fear to get the imagination running. Starting a piece is the worst,” says Higdon, “and that can stretch from one day to three weeks of agony. The cats run and hide.”
Higdon’s Violin Concerto for Hilary Hahn won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Music, and the composer said she found out in a very 21st century fashion, when she noticed her cell phone was suddenly flooded with dozens and dozens of messages.
“I jumped up and down a little,” confesses Higdon—and that probably scared her cats, too.
The cats’ names, for the record, are Beau and Squeak.
Music Played in Today's Program
Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962)Violin ConcertoHilary Hahn, vn;Royal Liverpool Philharmonic;Vasily Petrenko, cond.DG 146980-2