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Hilary Hahn with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra Feb. 14 & 15

Juanjo Mena conducts the Pulitzer Prize-winning concerto and works by Hindemith and Shostakovich February 14 at the Kimmel Center

Program to be repeated February 15 at Carnegie Hall

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(January 25, 2011) The Curtis Institute of Music presents the Philadelphia premiere of Jennifer Higdon's Violin Concerto, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Music, at Verizon Hall on Monday, February 14 at 8 p.m. The concerto's dedicatee, two-time Grammy Award-winner Hilary Hahn, will perform the work, which Curtis co-commissioned from faculty member Jennifer Higdon in collaboration with several major American orchestras. Both Ms. Hahn and Dr. Higdon are graduates of the Curtis Institute of Music.

The concert by the Curtis Symphony Orchestra also includes Hindemith's Konzertmusik for brass and strings and Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony. Juanjo Mena, chief conductor designate of the BBC Philharmonic, will lead the performance.

Tickets are $5 to $40 and are available at the Kimmel Center Box Office and from Ticket Philadelphia at (215) 893-1999 or The concert is part of the 2010-11 series of Jack Wolgin Orchestral Concerts.

The program will be repeated the following evening in New York at Carnegie Hall. The concert, which marks the New York premiere of the Higdon Violin Concerto, takes place on Tuesday, February 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available through the Carnegie Ticket Office at 212-247-7800 or

In what is now a frequent occurrence, Curtis has been presenting orchestral concerts at Carnegie Hall since 1929. The school celebrates its return to the illustrious venue with a preconcert gala at the Jumeirah Essex House on Central Park South. Proceeds benefit the Curtis Student Assistance Fund, which provides financial support for students' living expenses. For more information, contact the Curtis Development Office at (215) 717-3141. The New York concert and gala are sponsored by Blank Rome LLP and Glenmede.

Jennifer Higdon, who holds the Curtis Institute's Milton L. Rock Chair in Composition Studies, is one of a long line of Curtis graduates to become a major voice in contemporary composition; her fellow alumni include Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, and Ned Rorem. One of the most prolific and frequently performed American composers alive today, Dr. Higdon is having a momentous year. Two months before she won the Pulitzer, the nation's most prestigious classical music prize, her Percussion Concerto was awarded the Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. As the New York Times observed, "Higdon's vivid, attractive works have made her a hot commodity."

When violinist Hilary Hahn, a two-time Grammy Award-winner and Gramophone magazine's 2008 Artist of the Year, first enrolled in Higdon's 20th-century music class at Curtis ten years ago, neither could have predicted what a fruitful relationship theirs would be. Dr. Higdon wrote the Violin Concerto with her former student in mind and Ms. Hahn gave the work its world premiere performance last year, before recording it for Deutsche Grammophon with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, on a disc which quickly climbed to the top of the Billboard and charts.

Jennifer Higdon's Violin Concerto is cast in three movements, of which the first-- "1726"--is an allusion to the street address of Curtis (1726 Locust Street). Pulitzer officials described the work as "a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity," and the critical response has been nothing short of sensational. "It is simply one of the best contemporary works I recall hearing," writes Well-Tempered Ear, while adding, of Hahn's performance, "You can't imagine anyone doing it better." The London Times pronounces the concerto a "complex, assured, and relentlessly virtuosic work" that "enchants the ear"; Times reviewer Hilary Finch marvels that "Higdon seems to have absorbed and assimilated something from almost everything that exists in the violin repertoire - and yet she speaks with a fresh and confident voice of her own." The Boston Globe praised both composer and interpreter, noting: "the Higdon Concerto is very finely crafted indeed...Hahn is excellent, the part ideal for her meticulous tone: fine-grained and silvery,…emphasizing Higdon's cosmopolitan eloquence," while the Washington Post was similarly impressed:

"The violin concerto made a case for itself eloquently, from the moment the first movement opened...Higdon is a terrific composer; and this piece...shows her ability to tailor music to a particular soloist. Hahn played with a clean radiance that lit up the music, but Higdon wrote pretty great music for her to illuminate."

Jennifer Higdon's concerto will be heard between two classics of the 20th-century orchestral literature: Hindemith's Konzertmusik (1926), which evokes a German military band, and Shostakovich's powerfully subversive Symphony No. 5 (1937), written at the height of Stalin's reign of terror.

All three works will be directed by the Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena, who takes up his new appointment as chief conductor of England's BBC Philharmonic in fall 2011. He is currently principal guest conductor of the Bergen (Norway) Philharmonic and chief guest conductor at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa. Since making his North American debut with the Baltimore Symphony in 2004, he has appeared annually with that orchestra, while other recent and upcoming American debuts include the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Atlanta, Cincinnati, Colorado, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Oregon symphonies.

The Curtis Symphony Orchestra has been called "an orchestra that any city would be lucky to have as its professional ensemble" (Philadelphia Inquirer) and has been praised for its "otherworldly ensemble and professional level of sophistication" (New York Times). The orchestra presents three concerts annually under the direction of eminent conductors in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, as well as frequent concerts at New York's Carnegie Hall. Visiting conductors--such as Charles Dutoit, Simon Rattle, and Michael Tilson Thomas--also lead the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in readings of major repertoire. This professional orchestral training, under the direction of Otto-Werner Mueller and David Hayes, has enabled Curtis alumni to assume prominent positions in major orchestras across the United States, Canada, and abroad. 

The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level. One of the world's leading conservatories, Curtis is highly selective and provides full-tuition scholarships to all of its 164 students. In this intimate environment, students receive personalized attention from a celebrated faculty. A busy schedule of performances is at the heart of Curtis's distinctive "learn by doing" approach. This philosophy has produced an impressive number of notable artists since the school's founding in 1924, from such legends as Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber to current stars Juan Diego Flórez, Alan Gilbert, Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Higdon, and Lang Lang. 

Curtis Symphony Orchestra
The Jack Wolgin Orchestral Concerts
Monday, February 14 at 8 p.m.

Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia
Juanjo Mena, conductor
Hilary Hahn, violin ('99)

HINDEMITH  Konzertmusik for strings and brass
HIGDON  Violin Concerto (Philadelphia premiere)
SHOSTAKOVICH  Symphony No. 5

Tickets: $5, $16, $19, $29, $40; available at the Kimmel Center Box Office and from Ticket Philadelphia at (215) 893-1999 or

Additional performance:
Tuesday, February 15 at 8 p.m.
Perelman Stage, Isaac Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, 57th St. and 7th Ave., New York

Tickets: $16, $30, $50; available at the Carnegie Hall Box Office at (212) 247-7800 or

Curtis at Carnegie Gala:Preconcert dinner and premium concert tickets. Proceeds benefit the Curtis Student Assistance Fund. Gala tickets: information available from the Curtis Development Office at (215) 717-3141.

Sponsored by Blank Rome LLP and Glenmede. 

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