This disc contain three compositions by Ms.Higdon, PIANO TRIO (2003), VOICES (1993), and IMPRESSIONS (2003). Some of the titles of the movements of these pieces evoke colors, and in this respect, resemble many of the saxophone compositions of Sam Rivers. The following review concerns only VOICES and one of the movements of IMPRESSIONS, namely, NOTED CANVAS.
VOICES contains three movements, entitled BLITZ, SOFT ENHANCING, and GRACE. BLITZ starts out with a tangled motif with glissandos, and sounding like one of Bartok's later string quartets. BLITZ also contains a motorized-puppet theme. Two minutes into the piece, one finds a stuttering theme, where the bow skitters or bounces over the strings. From 4 1/2 minutes to 5 minutes, there appears a swirling motif similar to that used by Bartok. From 5 minutes to the end of BLITZ, the music is quiet, and consists of a pizzicato motif accompanied by high-pitched squeaks.
One might suggest that, if Bela Bartok had lived longer, his compositional style might have evolved somewhat, to sound just like BLITZ. Or, alternatively, one might suggest that Bela Bartok has been reincarnated, and has appeared on earth again in the form of Ms. Jennifer Higdon, resulting in the composition called BLITZ. Or, to set forth yet another theory, Ms.Higdon is an independent genius who was inspired by Bartokian techniques while composing BLITZ.
SOFT ENHANCING starts out sounding like a glass harmonica, an instrument used, for example, in Mozart's ADAGIO AND RONDO in C minor K.617. SOFT ENHANCING contains, at intervals, episodes of pulsations of the type used often in minimalist compositions. SOFT ENHANCING concludes with the glass harmonica sound.
GRACE contains broad, low-throated strokes on the cello, accompanied by higher-noted violins. There is no particular tune here. It sounds as if the ensemble was experimenting, and picking out various unrelated chords and testing how nicely they might sound in succession. Then, the sound level and vigor of the music picks up at three minutes, and the listener is treated to an upwards-spiraling motif, and at 3 minutes, 30 seconds, comes that Bartokian swirling motif again. At 4 minutes, GRACE quiets down again.
NOTED CANVAS begins like a jolly Bartokian piece, but lacking in any folkish, ethnic overtones. NOTED CANVAS has a particular harsh-sounding descending motif. From 1 minute, 45 seconds to 2 minutes, 10 seconds, the violins play a buzzing sound, reminiscent of the breathy-buzz issuing from a Jew's harp. From 4 minutes, 30 seconds to 5 minutes, 10 seconds, the harsh chord returns, but it is not descending, but instead it romps happily, using an alternative motif.
To conclude, what I like to listen to, over and over and over, is BLITZ, SOFT ENHANCING, and NOTED CANVAS. I do not have the ability to describe these particular pieces in writing. Something about Ms. Higdon's compositions renders them elusive to descriptions using words. I did the best that I could. I also own a recording of Ms.Higdon's Violin Concerto, and I recommend that as well.