Room To Breathe


Any recording of music by Jennifer Higdon, who in 2010 won both the Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy for different compositions, is cause for rejoicing. But when the recording is Telarc's upcoming The Singing Rooms, a world premiere conducted by one of Higdon's major champions, Robert Spano, anyone who cares a whim about music that transports you to a far different universe than Lady Gaga's will crave multiple listens.

Not only is the performance with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the superb chorus that the late Robert Shaw tutored for years, but it also features gifted violinist Jennifer Koh. All this in an atmospheric acoustic, marvelously engineered by Michael Bishop, that will leave your sound system smiling at its accomplishments.

Higdon's first work for chorus and orchestra sets six poems by Jeanne Minahan, her colleague at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute. The composer describes the seven-movement work as "a house where the violin sings, the choir sings, and the orchestra sings." Her loving construct creates a resonant sound world which serves as a metaphor for "the house that we all inhabit: that of life." Many of the pensive movements display her marvelous sense of rhythmic vitality and enthusiastic embrace of color.

Higdon's work is a far cry from the sparser but no less colorful writing of Alvin Singleton's PraiseMaker. A setting of a poem by Susan Kouguell for chorus and orchestra, it segues into a thrilling performance of Alexander Scriabin's The Poem of Ecstasy. Spano aims for the moon and propels us far beyond the stars.