An awe-inspiring slice of Wyoming landscape inspired American composer Jennifer Higdon’s All Things Majestic. The four-movement orchestral suite was commissioned in 2011 by the Grand Teton Music Festival in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Music Director Donald Runnicles and the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra gave the premiere in August, 2011.
Here is the composer’s description of the piece:
Having grown up in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains, and having hiked many of our parks, I have come to the conclusion that the national parks are one of America’s greatest treasures. So when asked by the Grand Teton Music Festival if I would compose a work to commemorate the Festival’s 50th Anniversary, I jumped at the chance. All Things Majestic is a tribute to not only the Festival and its home, the Tetons, but also to the grandeur and majesty of all of our parks. In this work, each movement represents a musical postcard: the first, the grandeur of the mountain ranges, with their size and sheer boldness and the solidity with which they fill the ground and air; the second, the lakes and the exquisite mirror quality of reflection upon their serene surfaces; the third, the rapid flow and unpredictability of the rivers and streams … ever-changing and powerful, yet at times, gentle; the final movement pictures the experience of being in the parks, as in a vast cathedral … the beauty of small details such as flowers and plants, within the larger picture 0f forests and fields … every part contributing to the sheer majesty.
Grand Teton Festival Orchestra violinist Holly Mulcahy suggests that All Things Majestic captures the power of the landscape:
I remember All Things Majestic very fondly. Jennifer was in the Tetons the year before we premiered it…she was going out hiking and experiencing the Grand Teton National Park in preparation for composing the work. Knowing that she was seeing, experiencing, and feeling the same mountains we all enjoy each year added a powerful sincerity to the project. She wasn’t just writing music- she was actively hearing, feeling, and breathing the beauty of the mountains that the musicians of the music festival experience each year.
After a year of wondering what she’d come up with, the first few magnificent chords confirmed to us that Jennifer captured the entire Teton range with the sincerity and the pondering thoughtfulness they demanded.
The range, the lakes, the flats, the rivers, the wildlife, the peaks and valleys and the constant change of light and life are captured so well in Jennifer’s work. While everyone’s emotion or impression of their time in nature varies, the music Jennifer created offers the kind of majesty, intimacy, peacefulness, tranquility, and sanctuary that everyone can relate to in their own ways.
The Nashville Symphony’s newest recording, conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero, features All Things Majestic along with world premieres of Higdon’s Viola Concerto (with Roberto Diaz) and Oboe Concerto (with James Button). The second movement of All Things Majestic evokes a lake’s shimmering, glassy serenity. Layers of string lines provide an equally visceral sense of the water’s cool, dark depths.
At times, the final movement, Cathedrals, reminds me of the soaring, wide-open “American” feeling of passages in the music of Morton Gould. The opening floats through a beautiful sonic dreamscape: