Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Muti Conducts Higdon and Britten

On this program, which first aired in Sept. 2018, Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of the Jennifer Higdon Low Brass Concerto, commissioned by the CSO and featuring CSO principal trombone Jay Friedman, Michael Mulcahy, Charles Vernon, and principal tuba Gene Pokorny. The program also includes Stravinsky’s Scherzo fantastique; Chausson’s Poem of Love and the Sea, featuring soloist Clémentine Margaine; and Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes. Rounding out the program, Fritz Reiner conducts Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta from a 1958 RCA recording.

Stravinsky Scherzo fantastique, Op. 3
Higdon Low Brass Concerto
Jay Friedman, trombone; Michael Mulcahy, trombone; Charles Vernon, bass trombone; Gene Pokorny, tuba
Chausson Poem of Love and the Sea, Op. 19
Clémentine Margaine, mezzo-soprano
Britten Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Op. 33a
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Originally recorded at concerts in February 2018

Bartók Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta
Fritz Reiner, conductor

This program will be available until September 24, 2019.

More about the Higdon Low Brass Concerto:

The Low Brass Concerto by Philadelphia composer Jennifer Higdon is a CSO commission and written especially for the orchestra’s acclaimed low brass section. Higdon says she got to know its sound from an early age.

“When I was very young, I think I was in second or third grade, my parents gave me a cassette player for Christmas,” she says. “They gave me one [cassette], and it was the Chicago Symphony, with Fritz Reiner conducting Pines of Rome and Pictures at an Exhibition and I think I listened to that cassette tape probably about 5,000 times… So the brass sound of the Chicago Symphony is somehow very native to my brain.” 

Higdon says she makes her living exclusively from commissions, as opposed to teaching or other day jobs. Her composing career took off in the year 2000 with Blue Cathedral, an orchestral piece that’s since been played over 650 times. In 2010, she won a Pulitzer Prize for her Violin Concerto. And in 2018, she picked up her second Grammy for a recording of her Viola Concerto.

Higdon has composed more than a dozen concertos, but a Low Brass Concerto brought new challenges. Namely, she grappled with how to take the trombones and tuba — which are usually at the root of an orchestra — and place them front and center.

LS: In this single-movement piece, Higdon says she aims to capture the brass in all of their majesty, grace and power. The soloists are CSO principal trombone Jay Friedman, trombone Michael Mulcahy, bass trombone Charles Vernon, and principal tuba Gene Pokorny.

Program notes for Stravinsky’s Scherzo fantastique, Higdon’s Low Brass Concerto, Chausson’s Poem of Love and the Sea, and Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes can be found here.

Producer: Brian Wise
Host: Lisa Simeone
Engineering: Charlie Post