08 May 2024

JENNIFER HIGDON: Fanfare Ritmico

by Jeff Counts

THE COMPOSER – JENNIFER HIGDON (b. 1962) – Few composers have had as much influence on 21st century American music as Jennifer Higdon. She got a late start, by the precocious standards of the art form, taking up the flute at 15 and not even considering composition until she was 21. This didn’t hold her back. Higdon is now among the most frequently performed American composers, and her list of awards includes a Pulitzer Prize and recognition from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, ASCAP, the Cliburn and the Koussevitzky Foundation. Her commissions too are numerous and wide-ranging, many of which have resulted in celebrated recordings. Higdon can boast over 70 of those, and she has racked up three Grammys along the way.      

Jennifer Higdon
Jennifer Higdon

THE HISTORY – Fanfare Ritmico was commissioned by the San Francisco-based Women’s Philharmonic and premiered in March 2000. It was part of an initiative called “The Fanfares Project” that was part of The Women’s Philharmonic’s drive for “the promotion of women composers, conductors and performers.”Sadly, this unique and powerful institution was shuttered in 2004 after 23 years, but the spirit lives on in its sister organization, the Community Women’s Orchestra. Fanfare Ritmico “celebrates the rhythm and speed (tempo) of life”, says Higdon in her program note for the piece, “Writing this work on the eve of the move into the new Millennium, I found myself reflecting on how all things have quickened as time has progressed. Our lives now move at speeds much greater than what I believe anyone would have ever imagined in years past. Everyone follows the beat of their own drummer, and those drummers are beating faster and faster on many different levels. As we move along day to day, rhythm plays an integral part of our lives, from the individual heartbeat to the lightning speed of our computers. This fanfare celebrates that rhythmic motion, of man and machine, and the energy which permeates every moment of our being in the new century.” Critical commentary after the first performance was universally laudatory, featuring words like “zippy” and “enchanting” while remarking on how Higdon’s generous music allows the “spotlight” to range over the entire orchestra, highlighting the virtuosity every section. Fanfare Ritmico has since been arranged for brass quintet and wind ensemble.

THE WORLD – Elsewhere in 2000, the Y2K collapse didn’t happen, but the PlayStation 2 was released in Japan, the first crew to live on the International Space Station arrived on board and the massive Bastille Day solar storm got the attention of scientists around the world.

THE CONNECTION – These concerts represent the Utah Symphony Premiere of Fanfare Ritmico by Jennifer Higdon.