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Leslie Kandell's Tanglewood notes
by Leslie Kandell

Tanglewood notes

A Daily Gazette arts blog
Leslie Kandell covers music in the Berkshires

Picking winners

Sunday's Tanglewood program, with violinist Gil Shaham, was mostly familiar musical bonbons by Suppé and Sarasate that show up on New Year's and Pops concerts. They were performed by the august Boston Symphony for the first time (an ominous sign for purists) and the audience lapped them up and felt better about the rain.

A very different kind of piece that opened the concert -- another orchestra first -- was Jennifer Higdon's enchanting 2000 "blue cathedral," a 12-minute "imagined journey through a glass cathedral in the sky."

I was drawn to its flowing tonality and catchy brass from her days in a school marching band, the sparkling percussion with harp, triangle and glass harmonica. At the end, most orchestra members play Chinese finger bells. It's music that reaches out for attention, and doesn't disappoint audience hankerings.

Higdon (pictured), according to Robert Kirzinger's program note, had been featured at the 2003 new music festival. Burrowing through past reports, I discovered that I'd written: "Higdon's optimistic works, showy in technique but conservative and graceful, emanate from whatever styles appeal. They are honed by confidence in what listeners like and desire that they have it. Neither sacred nor profane, her meeting of modes could unlock the future."

Now, seven years later, Higdon has won this year's Pulitzer Prize in music. Ahem.

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