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4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect match of composer and ensemble, July 22, 2013
By Digital Chips, Inc. “DCD Records” (Hood, VA USA

From a marketing standpoint, it’s a natural — the all-female Lark Quartet performs music by female composer Jennifer Higdon, including her Lark Quartet. But this release is more than that. It’s actually about a very talented string quartet performing music by a very talented composer. Period. And on that level, An Exaltation of Larks succeeds admirably.

The title work is flowing, modal composition. According to the liner notes, Higdon’s intent was to mimic a group of birds, and the music does just that. It swoops and spins, the four instruments coming together and moving apart, just like flocking birds. Motifs twitter and trill like bird calls to. An Exultation of Larks is an appealing work, even if you don’t know the program.

Scenes from the Poet’s Dreams is an engaging and most unusual-sounding piano quintet. The work was commissioned by the Lark Quartet and Gary Graffman, who lost the use of his right hand. The piano part is for left hand only, thinning the texture somewhat. Higdon uses the restriction as a resource. the piano becomes a fifth single-line instrument, completely integrated into the ensemble.

Light Refacted — as befitting the title — is a somewhat angular work for string quartet, clarinet and piano, The ensemble gives Higdon a lot of textures to play with, and she does. The first movement “Inward” turns slowly like a prism in the sunlight, the various instruments coming together and moving apart, creating subtle permutations of sound. It all comes coalesces in the last movement “Outward.” All the players are united, and the united ensemble races ahead to an exciting climax.

5.0 out of 5 stars A beauty., May 9, 2013
By nancy rosenthalLovely music, beautifully played. This is an interesting composer, and it’s great that her works are being made available. Nancy

5.0 out of 5 stars
The more I hear of Higdon’s music the more impressed I become!, March 9, 2013
By Stuart Sillitoe

The more I hear of the American, Jennifer Higdon’s music the more impressed I become. Her music has a strong melodic line with the occasional sections of rhythmic intensity, making it very attractive and listenable modern music, and this new disc is no exception.

This disc opens with An Exaltation of Larks which is a sixteen minute single span string quartet composed in 2005, and despite the present performers it was actually commissioned for the Tokyo String Quartet. The title comes from the collective noun for a group of larks, a bird whose song is heard when they are in flight. There are some beautifully ethereal passages here intermingled with passages of more chattery sections of music catching the atmosphere of the scene portrayed.

The second piece on the disc Scene from the Poet’s Dream, is the earliest and most substantial work on the disc and dates from 1999, it is scored for piano left hand and string quartet. This is the most modern sounding of the three works on the disc, its five movements alternating between the more rhythmical aspects of Higdon’s music and the meditational. It may be the most modern sounding of the works presented here, but it is still very approachable and tuneful, a fine piano quintet.

The final work opens with arguably the most beautiful music on the disc; Light Refracted was composed in 2002 and is for clarinet, string trio and piano. The work is in two movements, the first, Inward, begins with a slow and atmospheric introduction on the clarinet which is then joined by the strings, the piano not entering until nearly two minutes into the piece, while the second begins with a more aggressive and choppy style. This is a wonderful piece, and despite my penchant for string quartets, it is my favourite work on the disc.

The Lark Quartet prove themselves to be wonderful exponents in this music, their intonation is spot on, and the interplay between themselves and the other performers, Gary Graffman in the quintet, and Todd Palmer and Blair McMillen in Light Refracted is exemplary.

This is a brilliant disc with the enjoyment for the listener heightened by the wonderfully informative notes by the composer herself, highly recommended.