Jennifer Higdon - Mysterium

October 19, 2018

Mysterium is the composer’s own wind transcription of her sacred choral work, O Magnum Mysterium. The composition incorporates an ancient medieval liturgical tradition and presents it in a modern, yet approachable compositional language.

Upon completion of the wind setting, Higdon wrote: “Mysterium is a tribute to the wonderful mystery of how music moves us. Perhaps it is the unexplainable that creates such magic, for both the performer and the listener, but there is no denying the incredible power of a shared musical experience.”

The flute descants, chimes, and crystal glasses play prominent roles in both works. According to Higdon, her compositional style utilizes a combination of melody and rhythm that reflect “our spoken language.” The phrasing of the wind version is informed by the text of the original choral setting, which is first heard in Latin and then shifts to English. To emphasize the importance of the text, Higdon set the English translation in simple mono-rhythmic recitations, which form the basis for the middle section of the wind setting.

Jennifer Higdon is the 2018 recipient of the Bienen School’s Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition. This concert took place during her first Nemmers Prize residency.

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