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Jennifer Higdon
Fanfare Ritmico

Fanfare Ritmico
Jennifer Higdon
(b. 1962)


Composed in 1999, Jennifer Higdon’s Fanfare Ritmico celebrates the “speed of modern life,” from the rhythm of an individual heartbeat to the “lightning speed of computers.” Despite worldwide anxiety over the foreboding Y2K bug, Higdon optimistically designated her work as a “fanfare,” a ceremonial flourish hailing an important arrival. Indeed, the arrival of innovation dawned upon the horizon: the first “smartphones” (that is to say, the first Blackberry and Bluetooth devices) appeared on the consumer market, DVD collections lined the shelves of home entertainment, the digital music industry exploded with Napster, and TIME magazine hailed Amazon’s then 35-year-old CEO Jeff Bezos “Person of the Year.”  

On the eve of the new century, Higdon’s own career overflowed with optimism. At 37, the Brooklyn-born, Tennessee-raised composer whose early inspirations ranged from the Beatles to Simon & Garfunkel enjoyed an upward crest of professional success. Originally a flute major at Bowling Green, Higdon turned to composition at the age of 21, enrolling after graduation in the Artist Diploma program at the Curtis Institute of Music. Following doctoral studies with George Crumb at University of Pennsylvania, she returned to Curtis in 1994 to teach composition, a position held until last year. Higdon also enjoyed the rare luxury of composing exclusively on commission. 

As Higdon observes: “Everyone follows the beat of their own drummer, and those drummers are beating faster and faster on many different levels.” As such, Fanfare Ritmico is never monotonous but buoyantly fresh with color and metric vivacity. Unexpected jolts and pulsations, tricky enough even to keep the ensemble players on their toes, create a gripping fluidity of rhythmic color, eagerly anticipating what the 21st century would bring. Fanfare Ritmico premiered on March 25, 2000, with Apo Hsu conducting the San Francisco-based Women’s Philharmonic, the organization that commissioned the work. Two years later, Higdon scored Fanfare for wind band, which was premiered by the Illinois Wesleyan University Wind Ensemble on April 21, 2002.

This is the first of two pieces by Higdon that NCS will perform in the 22/23 season. Her Low Brass Concerto appears on the Beethoven "Eroica" program, October 14-15.


  • Layers of contrasting textural and rhythmic patterns in quick succession, expressive of effervescent motion at varying paces 
  • Hefty exchanges in the woodwinds before a solo melody emerges from the trumpet, supported by chimes 
  • An impressive battery of percussion (xylophone, temple blocks, bongos, toms, hard mallets, brake drums) that showcases a kaleidoscope of timbres  


Three flutes (one doubling piccolo), three oboes, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, piano, strings