Percussion Concerto (Higdon)

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Jennifer Higdon

Jennifer Higdon

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General Info

Year: 2005
Duration: c. 23:50
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Percussion and orchestra
Publisher: Lawdon Press
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $500.00   |   Score Only (print) - $65.00


Full Score
Solo Percussion
Bassoon I-II-III
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III-IV
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Tuba I-II
String Bass
Percussion I-II-III

(percussion detail desired)


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The 2010 Grammy winner for Best Contemporary Composition Percussion Concerto marries traditional compositional techniques for concerti with the modern timbres of the percussion section. Higdon establishes the tone for the work by beginning with solo marimba and slowly integrating an exchange between the soloist and the rest of the percussion section before engaging the remainder of the ensemble. Higdon claims to have based this decision to feature the entire percussion section rather than the soloist alone thanks to the elevated visibility and capability of percussionists in the 20th century. In her own program notes for the piece, Higdon adds,

My Percussion Concerto follows the normal relationship of a dialogue between soloist and orchestra. In this work, however, there is an additional relationship with the soloist interacting extensively with the percussion section. The ability of performers has grown to such an extent that it has become possible to have sections within the orchestra interact at the same level as the soloist.

In addition to the variety of percussion timbres utilized, including both pitched instruments (marimba and vibraphone) as well as smaller non-pitched instruments (brake drum, wood blocks, Peking Opera gong) and the drums, Higdon combines long sections meant to display the performer’s virtuosity along with long passages of lyricism. Her flowing sections imitate an English pastoral quality, usually on the marimba or vibraphone, to bring a peaceful air to her melodies. When composing a commissioned concerto, Higdon says she considers both the instrument as well as the performer. In the case of Percussion Concerto, Higdon was writing for Scottish percussionist Colin Currie, to whom the work is also dedicated.

Higdon considered Currie and his fondness for the marimba when scoring her Concerto, which opens with his preferred instrument quietly and serenely, with the focus on the soloist.

In her process, Higdon also considers the mechanics and movements of the performer, especially intricate for a modern percussionist. She notes, “Not only does a percussionist have to perfect playing all of these instruments, but he must make hundreds of decisions regarding the use of sticks and mallets, as there is an infinite variety of possibilities from which to choose. Not to mention the choreography of the movement of the player: where most performers do not have to concern themselves with movement across the stage during a performance, a percussion soloist must have every move memorized. No other instrumentalist has such a large number of variables to challenge and master.” In considering the various aspects including the various timbres, the performer, and the physicality of the instruments, Higdon has created a masterpiece which melds together lyricisms and virtuosity, juxtaposing slow sections with chaotic counterparts before culminating in a cadenza for both the soloist and percussion section. Following a dramatic close, the ensemble reiterates their opening material to conclude the work.

- Program Note from University of Texas Wind Ensemble concert program, 30 September 2018

The Percussion Concerto is a one-movement concerto for solo percussion and orchestra by the American composer Jennifer Higdon. The work was jointly commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, with contributions from the Philadelphia Music Project and the Lacy Foundation of LDI, Ltd. The piece was completed in 2005 and is dedicated to percussionist Colin Currie, for whom the concerto was written. The piece won the 2010 Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. That same year, Higdon won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for her Violin Concerto (2008).

Conductor and frequent Higdon collaborator Marin Alsop wrote of the work, "In this concerto, you can hear the essential qualities about Jennifer as a composer and person — the music is direct, immediate and visceral with clear direction and shape, just some of the qualities that also define her as an 'American' composer." Alsop further remarked, "'Accessible' is often a dirty word in the world of art, but Jennifer embraces the concept and explains that a major priority for her is to give listeners a sense of grounding and a feel for where they are in her compositions. She is far less concerned with formality and technique than she is with the final test of a piece: how it sounds."

- Program Note from Wikipedia


  • Grammy winner for Best Contemporary Composition, 2010


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Washington (Seattle) Wind Ensemble (Timothy Salzman, conductor; Scott Farkas, percussion) - 9 March 2023
  • Kansas State University (Manhattan) Wind Ensemble (Frank Tracz, conductor; Braedon Bomgardner, percussion) - 24 April 2022
  • Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester, Eng.) (Mark Heron, conductor; Colin Currie, percussion) - 19 November 2021
  • Dallas (Tx.) Winds (Jerry Junkin, conductor; Cameron Leach, percussion) – 14 January 2020
  • Baldwin-Wallace College (Berea, Ohio) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Dwight Oltman, conductor) – 4 October 2019
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.) Symphonic Wind Ensemble (Mallory Thompson, conductor; She-e Wu, percussion) – 19 October 2018
  • University of Texas (Austin) Wind Ensemble (Jerry Junkin, conductor; Tom Burritt, percussion) – 30 September 2018
  • University of Michigan Symphony Band (Michael Haithcock, conductor) – 28 September 2018
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.) Wind Symphony (James Spinazzola, conductor; Michael Sparhuber, percussion) – 6 May 2018
  • Eastman Wind Ensemble (Rochester, N.Y.) (Mark Davis Scatterday, conductor) – 21 February 2018
  • Butler University (Indianapolis, Ind.) Wind Ensemble (Michael Colburn, conductor; Evelyn Glennie, percussion) – 8 April 2017
  • Illinois State University (Normal) Wind Symphony (Daniel Belongia, conductor; Ben Stiers, percussion) - 2013

Works for Winds by This Composer