The Cliburn presented “An Afternoon with Jennifer Higdon, composer” on April 5, 2014, at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for an appreciative and engaged crowd. Shields-Collins Bray served as host and pianist for the event. TheaterJones‘ Gregory Sullivan Isaacs wrote of Ms. Higdon that it was her “charm and surprising honesty that makes her so interesting,” while the Fort Worth Weekly’s Edward Brown wrote that Ms. Higdon “proved herself a lively interviewee, needing only short prompts from Bray to expand on the nuances of composing and realizing artistic self-expression” and that the performance demonstrated “the power of carefully crafted chamber music to convey deeply personal ideas.”
Ms. Higdon presented her compositions Dash, Clarinet Sonata, and Piano Trio; performers engaged were Shields-Collins Bray, piano; Daryl Coad, clarinet; Leda Larson, cello; and Swang Lin, violin. In between performances of each work, Mr. Bray and Ms. Higdon discussed her compositional process and the works themselves. Speaking to her Piano Trio, Ms. Higdon stated “My concern is always balance, and I wondered how to balance three such different instruments [piano, violin, and cello].” TheaterJones’ Mr. Isaacs remarked, “As you could tell in the sensitive performance of the trio at the end of the program, she achieved that ‘balance’ quite beautifully. This trio is one of her most successful pieces…it was the highlight of the afternoon.”
The Cliburn at the Modern series was introduced in 2003 to create understanding and appreciation between audiences and composers. This series celebrates living composers and new trends in classical music, and makes modern classical music accessible to a broad audience by showcasing composers and their works in an intimate and informal setting. The Cliburn has involved living American composers in its programming since the First Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1962, commissioning 11 pieces from American composers specifically for competition performances and hosting three American Composer Invitationals in 2001, 2005, and 2009. The Cliburn intends to continue with this well-regarded series as an important facet of carrying out its mission of advancing classical piano music throughout the world.