Jennifer Higdon: An Exaltation of Larks / The Lark Quartet


The very significant poetic side of American composer Jennifer Higdon's music is confirmed on this new album from Bridge Records. The performances are by the Lark Quartet in An Exaltation of Larks (2005), Scenes from the Poet's Dreams (1999) where the quartet is joined by pianist Gary Graffman, and Light Refracted (2002) with clarinetist Todd Palmer joining the Larks.

I enjoyed these pieces the first few times I listened to them, taking in Ms. Higdon's works as purely absolute music - without any implied references outside of the music itself. But it was after I got a chance to sit down and read the composer's notes about each piece that they really came to life for me. Being aware of the imagery behind the music is essential to its full enjoyment. Take the opening work for example, An Exaltation of Larks for string quartet. I was not aware that one meaning of the word "exaltation" is "a flight of larks", nor that a lark has a particular song that is delivered only in flight. Even without hearing Ms. Higdon's music, is it easy to imagine how this knowledge would dramatically enhance your enjoyment of it. "Racing Through Stars", "Summer Shimmers Across the Glass of Green Ponds", and "I Saw the Electric Insects Coming" are titles from Ms. Higdon's Scenes from the Poet's Dreams. Here again, Higdon brings a panoply of vivid and evocative sounds to the service of her imagination.

Listen to the music sample offered here - the opening minutes of An Exaltation of Larks to get a feeling for Jennifer Higdon's idiom. With an understanding of the inspiration, listening to this music is very rewarding.

LARK Quartet plays Jennifer Higdon - "Scenes from the Poet's Dreams"