Yolanda Kondonassis Performs Premieres of Jennifer Higdon Concerto for Harp and Orchestra
Grammy-nominated harpist Yolanda Kondonassis announces the premiere performance series of Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon's Concerto for Harp and Orchestra, written for and to be premiered by Kondonassis with The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Ward Stare in May 2018. The premiere series of performances will continue with Yolanda Kondonassis as soloist throughout 2018 and 2019 with consortium members the Harrisburg Symphony, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Lansing Symphony, Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, and Baton Rouge Symphony. The consortium was designed to bring the work to both large and small communities in a variety of geographic regions.
The commissioning project is led by Kondonassis, with the goal of advancing the evolution of solo harp repertoire. Jennifer Higdon's colorful musical language and mastery of writing for unusual instruments in a highly idiomatic manner made her the artist's choice to write for the unique qualities of her instrument. The concerto is approximately twenty minutes in length and is scored for full orchestra and solo harp. Kondonassis says of the project, "From the first time I ever heard Jennifer's work, I have been mesmerized by her handling of unique sonorities and textures within both the orchestral and solo contexts. Her musical voice is distinct and I have always thought that she would be a perfect composer/advocate for the power and magic of the harp. I am so honored and excited to be helping bring this work to life."
Both Higdon and Kondonassis have been trailblazers in their respective fields, pushing the boundaries of what listeners expect and becoming known for exploiting uncharted musical territories and creating artistic styles all their own. Of the collaboration, Higdon explains, "When writing concerti, I always look to the performer and his or her preferences to help dictate the type of work that I hope to write. Upon hearing Yolanda's extraordinary playing, I was immediately taken by her style and the depth of her professional abilities. I look forward to collaborating with Yolanda and to expanding the repertoire for a wonderful instrument."
Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Higdon is one of America's most acclaimed and most frequently performed living composers. Higdon started late in music, teaching herself to play flute at the age of 15 and beginning formal musical studies at 18, with an even later start in composition at the age of 21. Despite this late beginning, she has become a major figure in contemporary Classical music and makes her living from commissions in a variety of genres, including orchestral, chamber, choral, and wind ensemble.
Hailed by The Washington Post as "a savvy, sensitive composer with a keen ear, an innate sense of form and a generous dash of pure esprit," Higdon's works have been performed throughout the world, and are enjoyed by audiences at several hundred performances a year and on over sixty CDs. Her orchestral work, blue cathedral, is one of the most performed contemporary orchestral compositions by a living American with more than 600 performances worldwide since its premiere in 2000.
Her list of commissioners and performing organizations is extensive and includes The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Chicago Symphony, The Atlanta Symphony, The Baltimore Symphony, The Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Luzern Sinfonieorchester, The Hague Philharmonic, The Melbourne Symphony, The New Zealand Symphony, The Pittsburgh Symphony, The Indianapolis Symphony, The Dallas Symphony, as well as such groups as the Tokyo String Quartet, eighth blackbird, and the President's Own Marine Band. Higdon has worked with musicians including Nathan Gunn, Isabel Leonard, Hilary Hahn, and Yuja Wang.
Her Percussion Concerto won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition in January 2010. Higdon also received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, with the committee citing Higdon's work as "a deeply engaging piece that combines flowing lyricism with dazzling virtuosity." Among her national honors, Higdon has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts & Letters (two awards), the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Meet-the-Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, and ASCAP. She was also honored by the Delaware Symphony with the A.I. DuPont Award for her contributions to the symphonic literature. Most recently, she was awarded the Distinguished Arts Award by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and the International Opera Award for Best World Premiere for her opera based on Charles Frazier's best-selling novel, Cold Mountain, co-commissioned by Santa Fe Opera, Opera Philadelphia and Minnesota Opera in collaboration with North Carolina Opera.
Higdon holds a Ph.D. and a M.A. in Music Composition from the University of Pennsylvania, a B.M. in Flute Performance from Bowling Green State University, and an Artist Diploma in Music Composition from The Curtis Institute of Music. Higdon currently holds the Milton L. Rock Chair in Composition Studies at The Curtis Institute of Music. Her music is published exclusively by Lawdon Press. For more information: www.jenniferhigdon.com.
Yolanda Kondonassis is celebrated as one of the world's premier solo harpists and is widely regarded as today's most recorded classical harpist. Hailed as "a brilliant and expressive player" (Dallas Morning News), she has performed around the globe as a concerto soloist and in recital, bringing her unique brand of musicianship and warm artistry to an ever-increasing audience. Also a published author, professor of harp, and environmental activist, she weaves her many passions into a vibrant, multi-faceted career.
Since making her debut at age 18 with the New York Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta, Kondonassis has brought new audiences to the harp and has appeared as soloist with numerous major orchestras in the United States and abroad such as The New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic, to name a few. She has been featured on CNN and PBS as well as Sirius XM Radio's Symphony Hall, NPR's All Things Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts, St. Paul Sunday Morning, and Performance Today.
The first harpist to receive the Darius Milhaud Prize, Kondonassis is committed to the advancement of contemporary music for the instrument, with recent premieres including works by Bright Sheng, Keith Fitch, and Gary Schocker. Kondonassis has also earned a reputation as a world-class chamber musician, collaborating with artists such as the Shanghai, JACK, Jupiter, and Vermeer string quartets, pianist Jeremy Denk, and guitarist Jason Vieaux, among others. The Kondonassis/Vieaux duo released their debut album, Together, in January 2015 on Azica Records.
With hundreds of thousands of albums sold worldwide, Kondonassis' extensive discography, released on the Telarc, Azica, Oberlin, New World, and Channel Classics labels, includes nineteen titles. Her latest album, Ginastera One Hundred, celebrated Ginastera's 2016 centennial and was released in October 2016 on Oberlin Music. Her 2008 release of music by Takemitsu and Debussy, Air (Telarc), was nominated for a Grammy Award. Her many albums have earned universal critical praise as she continues to be a pioneering force in the harp world, striving to make her instrument more accessible to audiences and to push the boundaries of what listeners expect of the harp.
As an author, composer, and arranger, Kondonassis has published three books to date: On Playing the Harp, The Yolanda Kondonassis Collection, and The Yolanda Kondonassis Christmas Collection. Carl Fischer Music publishes all of her works. Kondonassis carries her passionate artistic commitment to issues regarding the protection of natural resources, air quality, and climate change. Royalties from several of her projects are donated to earth causes and she is the founder and director of Earth at Heart, a non-profit organization devoted to earth literacy and inspiration through the arts. Her first children's book, entitled Our House is Round: A Kid's Book About Why Protecting Our Earth Matters, was published in 2012 by Skyhorse Publishing.
Born in Norman, Oklahoma, Kondonassis attended high school at Interlochen Arts Academy. She continued her education at The Cleveland Institute of Music, where she received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees as a student of Alice Chalifoux. Kondonassis heads the harp departments at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Cleveland Institute of Music and plays a Lyon & Healy Salzedo Model harp. For more information on Yolanda Kondonassis, visit www.YolandaHarp.com.