Higdon: An Exhalation of Larks

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COMPOSERS: Higdon
LABELS: Bridge
ALBUM TITLE: Higdon: An Exhalation of Larks
WORKS: An Exhalation of Larks; Scenes from the Poet’s Dreams; Light Refracted
PERFORMER: Lark Quartet; Gary Graffman, Blair macMillan (piano), Todd Palmer (clarinet)
CATALOGUE NO: BRIDGE9379

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A charm of finches; a murmuration of starlings; an ostentation of peacocks; an exaltation of larks. Many and wondrous are the old names for groups of birds. The American composer Jennifer Higdon chose well in applying the last of those to a tone poem for string quartet that begins in calm euphony and reaches a driving climax before a resonant ending. Oddly enough, the piece wasn’t written for the Lark Quartet but for another group. The Lark, though, traverse it with ease and ardour, albeit hampered by a close and edgy recording.

Scenes from the Poet’s Dreams was written for the Lark, together with the left hand of the pianist Gary Graffman. A suite of atmospheric vignettes, these include an evocation of a still summer evening by a lake, which doesn’t quite have the courage to risk truly static textures, and an eerie nightmare vision of electric insects. This is well played, as is Light Refracted, a pair of paraphrases of earlier works by Higdon (one of them the popular orchestral blue cathedral) scored for clarinet, string trio and piano.

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Anthony Burton