JEN­NIFER HIG­DON

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

The Sing­ing Rooms (Te­larc) Since tak­ing over the At­lanta Sym­phony Or­ches­tra in 2001, con­duc­tor Robert Spano has built on­go­ing re­la­tion­ships with what is called the At­lanta School of Com­posers, an ex­tended cir­cle of “com­posers-in-oc­ca­sional-res­i­dence.” One of its mem­bers, Jen­nifer Hig­don, won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Mu­sic for her Vi­o­lin Con­certo, but a year be­fore she wrote it, she was sidling into vi­o­lin-con­certo ter­ri­tory with

The Sing­ing Rooms. This nearly 40-minute piece be­gan as a work for mixed cho­rus plus solo vi­o­lin (specif­i­cally the vi­o­lin­ist Jen­nifer Koh, fea­tured in this per­for­mance), but it grad­u­ally evolved to in­clude a full sym­phony or­ches­tra. The At­lanta Sym­phony Or­ches­tra Cho­rus is a pow­er­ful en­sem­ble, the legacy of its for­mer di­rec­tor Robert Shaw, but the recorded sound ob­scures its dic­tion here; for­tu­nately, the texts by poet Jeanne Mi­na­han (a col­league of Hig­don’s on the fac­ulty of the Cur­tis In­sti­tute of Mu­sic) are printed in the CD book­let. At­trac­tive and ul­ti­mately con­ser­va­tive in its lan­guage — think of Ralph Vaughan Wil­liams, but caf­feinated — The Sing­ing Rooms is es­pe­cially likely to ap­peal to choral en­thu­si­asts, who will also ad­mire Alvin Sin­gle­ton’s PraiseMaker (1998), its CD-mate.

PraiseMaker is a more con­cen­trated cho­rus-and-or­ches­tra paean to hu­man­is­tic striv­ing that pro­longs the spirit of mid­cen­tury mu­si­cal Amer­i­can­ism. Com­plet­ing the playlist is a lu­mi­nous in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Scri­abin’s Poem of Ec­stasy, in which Spano demon­strates his suc­cess in re­fin­ing the At­lanta or­ches­tra over the past decade. — James M. Keller

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